Royal Foodie Joust: August

It's that time again: to bring out the big guns and creative faculties for the Royal Foodie Joust over at the forum presided over by Jenn the Left Over Queen.

Peter at Kalofogas was the first place winner of July's joust and chose seafood, cilantro (coriander), and sesame as the three ingredients on which this month's battle is based.

I vacillated over ideas for 3 weeks before settling. I still have many tricks up my sleeve, but you can submit only one entry. Which is perfectly reasonable, because like I said...I have many tricks up my sleeve. The only sure thing was my use of coriander seed and not cilantro leaf. In different parts of the world, the words are interchangeable.

Some people cannot ingest cilantro (leaf) or it tastes of soap when they eat it. This is a genetic trait, like being able to roll your tongue or having double-jointed knees. I am not partial to people telling me my food tastes of soap, so seeds it is.

So whenever you're in doubt about what to cook, always go with what you know. I know Southern cuisine and so it goes...

Coconut shrimp and sesame grits with mango gravy

Coconut Shrimp Serves 4 to 6 (or one ravenous foodie)

1/2 cup whole wheat panko bread crumbs
1 cup shredded coconut, unsweetened
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1 egg, beaten lightly with 2 Tbsp water
2 Tbsp Sriracha hot sauce
1 pound shrimp(SIZE: 16/20 OR 21/30) deveined and peeled

Canola or safflower oil, for frying

Combine flour, salt and pepper in a shallow dish or Ziploc plastic bag. In an second shallow dish, combine egg, water, and Sriracha. Combine breadcrumbs and coconut in an additional shallow dish.

Place shrimp in the flour-filled shallow dish and dredge or coat each piece with flour. If using plastic bag, seal and shake the bag vigorously, making sure each shrimp is coated. Next, coat each shrimp with egg and then coconut mixture. It helps to press the coconut mixture onto the shrimp to ensure the piece is coated well. Place on a sheet pan or plate and refrigerate to firm up, 30 min to an hour.

While the shrimp are having a spa treatment, prepare the grits.
When ready to fry, heat oil to medium-high (350 degrees F) in a deep skillet or pan. Fry shrimp in hot oil until evenly golden and crispy. Remove from oil to a paper-towel lined tray.
TIPS: Sweetened coconut is not recommended here because the sugar caramelizes too fast and your shrimp might turn out overcrisped or burned.

Let me tell you a little bit about my friend, Grits. Either you love them or you hate them. There isn't much leeway or dissension from this fact. Grits are one of two things: Girls Raised In The South or coarsely ground corn and or in special instances, rice. Corn is the most familiar and popular.
They can be yellow or white, stone ground or milled, corn or hominy, quick or instant. The best part is the fact that they can be reheated. Do you know how to cook polenta? If so, substitute grits and you can produce the same recipes. Grits can be savory or sweet. For breakfast, milk, sugar, and or butter is added. For dinner, they may be paired with shrimp, ham, fish, or even a hot, crispy piece of fried chicken.
Where do I find such goodness, you ask? There are a plethora of online retailers. I wish I could suggest a brand, but there are so many that claim to be "best sellers" that I don't know where to point you. If you trust my judgement and authority, Quaker quick grits are just fine. Simply follow the cooking directions on the side of the package with the addition of the sesame, oil, and butter. For the recipe below, don't use the instant version. You'll be sorely disappointed.

Creamy Sesame Grits

1/4 cup sesame seeds
3 cups water
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup coarse stone-ground white grits
2 Tbsp sesame oil
2 Tbsp unsalted butter

Bring water and salt to a boil.
In a cold, dry skillet, add sesame seeds and toast on medium heat. Stir using rubber spatula and shake pan. Remove pan from heat and pour seeds into a heat-safe container when they become golden brown and become fragrant.

Slowly add the grits to the boiling water, bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer, and cook over medium low heat for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally (more often, than not). The grits will most likely bubble and splatter at this point, be careful. They are HOT! The grits might stick to the bottom of the pan, so make sure not to scrape the bottom of the pan. If the grits have absorbed all of the water, add more water (1/2 cup or so) to allow more time for cooking.
Stir in heavy cream, toasted sesame seeds and sesame oil. Turn off the heat and stir in butter.

Grits an be served at this point, or poured into pour into a greased or Silpat-covered pan to cool. Refrigerate several hours or overnight till firm. Cut into squares when ready to serve.
OPTIONAL: Fry cooled squares to make grit cakes: Dip each slice in 1 beaten egg mixed with 3 tablespoons milk, salt and pepper. Dredge or coat each slice with a mixture of flour and cornmeal (approximately 1/2 cup total)
Shallow pan-fry in oil until light brown on each side. Remove from oil and drain.

I had to squish my Silpat into the baking dish. I didn't have a pan deep enough for what I wanted to accomplish.

A crappy photo of my friend, Sriracha. He's cheaper in the Asian/Ethnic grocery. I found him at Wal-Mart for a mere $1.29.

Gravy is the ubiquitous sauce of the South. It can be white or brown, flour or cornstarch based, thick or thin, but it's always good poured over meat, starches, and vegetables. Every time I cook and there are drippings in the pan, I make a gravy or sauce. Even if I don't use the sauce on whatever I've cooked, I've got something I can add to a soup, stew, or another dish for another day. Gravy is another one of my lovers. Just don't tell Bread, OK?

Mango Gravy Makes 2 cups
3 Tbsp Butter
3 Tbsp corn starch
1/4 cup water
2 1/2 cup mango juice or puree
2 Tbsp ground coriander (seed)
1 jalapeno, diced and seeded
salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in a wide skillet with jalapeno. In a small bowl, mix corn starch in the water to make a slurry. Pour into pan with butter and use a whisk to blend. Stir with whisk until the gravy begins to thicken. As it thickens, slowly add mango juice to the pan, stopping to stir occasionally. Add coriander and whisk/stir to incorporate. Once it bubbles, turn down the heat to low or remove pan to prevent breakdown or thinning out of gravy.

Cornstarch has twice the thickening power of flour and produces clear sauces. Flour thickened sauces are opaque and can be lumpy. Cornstarch lends its self to be smooth, satiny, and glossy. Corn starch is easier to use than flour because it does not absorb liquid until it is cooked.

If you've made it this far by reading (or skimming) this post, I appreciate it.

This is for you. You deserve it.

I talk a lot in real life and I feel as if I talk/write just as much in my posts. Can you, dear and wonderful reader, do me a favor? Please tell me how I'm doing. Did you/do you enjoy what you read? Too much? Not enough? I appreciate your readership and I want to do/be the best that I can and if you don't tell me, I won't know! :)

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About the author

Nikki Miller-Ka

Nikki Miller-Ka

Ms. Miller-Ka is a classically trained chef with a BA in English from East Carolina University and a Culinary Arts Associate Degree from Le Cordon Bleu-Miami.

Formerly, she’s worked as a researcher, an editorial assistant, reporter and guest blogger for various publications and outlets in the Southeast. She has also worked as a catering chef, a pastry chef, a butcher, a baker, and a biscuit-maker. Presently, she is a food editor, freelance food writer, and a tour guide for Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tours.

Leave a reply

  1. You're doing great, dearie lou! I love getting a glimpse of your voice in your posts.

    But as for this dish, this is really something else. You know that a lot of people will make coconut shrimp (because face it, it's awesome), but the sesame grits are really inventive and original. Corn and sesame are delicious together. Great idea!

  2. A+, honey. You're loads of fun to read, and the recipes knock me out.
    (Sesame Grits, indeed!)

  3. Definitely a Southern girl with the just looks so perfect for the Joust:D

  4. I loved the post - and you talked just enough. It's good you're doing analysis, but this is your blog damnit - talk as much as you want to.

    Now, I love grits. Do you hear me? I love grits. I like to make shrimp & grits though. I need sausage for that. Cuz, I have shrimp, I have stock, I have grits, I have cheese - just no sausage. I have bacon - could subtitute that...I'm sure it'd be good.

    Maybe I'll make some this week with some sweet cornbread muffins. Sounds yummers.


  5. I think you do GREAT Nikki! :) I love hearing the people behind the posts, ya know?

    This looks delicious! I just love your take on shrimp and grits and mango gravy? Yum.

    Best of luck in the Joust! :)

  6. Nik my dear, you can never talk too much. It all comes down to what you talk about and how you do it.

    I read the whole post, and thought it was engaging. You gave me tips, advice, humor, wonderful pictures. I can't ask for a lot more.

    Everything looks great. I love the Mango gravy idea, and your advice on grits was helpful. Being from NY, I can't say I've had them often... but I think I should remedy that if I move down towards you in a few months, no?

  7. Thanks, you guys. I appreciate everything. I just want to make sure my blog is doing what it's supposed to be doing.

  8. I like a blog that sounds like you are talking to the writer so keep it up. Those shrimp look yummy & I'm very intrigued by Mango Gravy

  9. I like your style. Keep on keeping on!
    I didnt know that about cilantro. I used to hate it at first. Now I somewhat tolerate it.
    Love your version of shrimp and grits!

  10. Thanks for stopping by my blog. This sounds like a great entry... love the idea of using a gravy. Good luck in the joust! (I haven't gotten myself together enough lately to participate in this one....)

  11. No!!!! No sugar in the grits! :-) My wife, who is a GRIT, does that. Me, being a Yankee, I put sugar in my cream of wheat. Cheese goes into grits!

    On another note...

    Nik, your blog is one of the best out here. Always a great read, always great skills and tips, not to mention the actual food. Now, if you could upgrade that camera, we'd get to droll more! :-)

  12. Yum! Looks great! I think Pete made some coconut prawns, as well.

    I'm just now starting to like cilantro. I used to HATE it. Still not my favorite.

  13. I don't think this was too long, but then again I am a super long poster sometimes. and it looks yum. love grits.

  14. Hey Nikki! How's it going? Glad you like my Mexican Word of the Day. You know, I was hesitant to put those up, but I refuse to take myself too seriously. Life's too short. And you young lady, you are doing fantastic! I mean it. You've got it all together Nikki my dear friend. So believe it. I love that Coconut Shrimp. Yum Yum.

  15. I love reading your blog, Nikki! Someday I hope to meet you IRL so I can see if you're really as animated as your posts have you being! :)

    Grits sound very close to polenta, and it has only been in the last few years that I have been making this (somehow, my Italian relatives "forgot" about this particular dish). I'll have to try grits. I have never met a starch that I didn't like!

    Life has been just so crazy lately, and I truly miss reading your posts. But this too shall pass, and soon I'll have more time. ;)


  16. Delicious! Shrimp alone is enought to make my mouth water, but when teamed with coocnut and mango - WOW!

  17. That sounds delectable Nikki! Good luck on the joust!

  18. Lovely dish. I think I have told you again that I enjoy reading your posts. You do a great job Nikki.

  19. The shrimp look great - but I have to say that grits aren't on my lovin' list... (I'm sure if I liked them I'd like yours ;)

    But... I do your style - I think it's important to be able to see the real person behind the blog - that's half of what keeps the interest!


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