It’s the time of year, as Mardi Gras approaches, that I start to crave some good Louisiana flavors. And I also find traditional hearty dishes perfect for the cold and dreary weather, from Red Beans and Riceto Shrimp Creole. Warmth and spice are perfect for the season. Shrimp gravy has roots in the Low Country and in Louisiana, and my version is a variation of classic Shrimp Sauce Picante, not quite as kicky and with the added heft of smoked sausage and without the process of a roux. It’s also a simple weeknight dish worthy of a space in the regular rotation.
I love rice grits with this gravy. Rice grits, also known as middlins’, are broken pieces of rice and, not surprisingly, have the taste of rice with the texture of grits. Check local rice growers for rice grits, or check out some online sources. I particularly like Two Brooks Farm, Delta Blues, or Anson Mills. If you can’t access rice grits, the gravy is delicious over long grain rice or corn grits. I love a simple smoked sausage, but you could use andouille for some added spice.
Shrimp and Sausage Gravy with Rice Grits
For the Gravy:
1 pound medium frozen peeled, deveined shrimp, thawed
4 teaspoons creole seasoning (such as Tony Chachere’s), divided
8 ounces smoked sausage
1 (10-ounce) can tomatoes with green chile
1 cup chicken broth
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons butter
1 green bell pepper, finely diced
1 yellow onion, finely diced
2 stalks celery, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
For the Rice Grits:
3 cups chicken broth
1 ½ cups water
¼ cup (half stick) butter
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
1 ½ cups rice grits
For the Gravy:
Lay the shrimp in one layer on a plate and pat dry. Sprinkle 3 teaspoons of creole seasoning evenly over both sides of the shrimp and place the plate in the fridge until ready to use the shrimp.
Cut the sausage into small pieces – I like to cut each link into quarters then cut thin slices across. Put the tomatoes and chiles and the broth in a blender and blend until smooth.
Heat the oil and butter in a large skillet over medium high heat until melted. Add the diced pepper, onion, celery and the sliced sausage and cook, stirring frequently until the vegetables are soft and just beginning to brown and the sausage is lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute. Sprinkle over the flour and remaining teaspoon of creole seasoning and stir to coat the vegetables, making sure there is no dry flour visible. Pour in the tomato-broth mixture and scrape up the lovely brown bits from the bottom of the skillet. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, stirring frequently, until the gravy begins to thicken, about 10 minutes. Add the shrimp and cook until they are just beginning to turn pink and curl. Cover the pot and remove from the heat until the shrimp are cooked through, about 5 minutes. Serve over rice grits.
For the Grits:
Bring the broth, water, butter and salt to a boil in a large pot over high heat. When the water is boiling, stir in the grits. Reduce the heat to medium high and cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid is absorbed and the grits are tender, about 20 minutes. Cover the pot for 5 minutes, then fluff the grits with a fork before serving.