In episode 2 of All Star Academy we were challenged to cook with both famous, and infamous pairings…
In the first challenge we each had to put a twist on a classic pairing. My team- Team Bobby was assigned Spaghetti & Meatballs.
I was thrilled with this challenge. I am very confident with meatballs- and I’ve made countless versions of them before. Plus, if you recall in episode 1 I made some Albondigas, which a spanish style meatball- I was ready to rock this one out!
I made “Southwestern” style Meatballs and in lieu of official pasta I used some colorful roasted peppers Julianned as a bed for my chili infused meatballs.
Bobby warned me- not using noodles was risky, but I said “Screw the pasta” I’m going for it….
The turned out delicious! When time came for each of our mentors to put one of us up for elimination, I was sure I’d be safe…
But then Bobby surprises me by putting me in the elimination round and potentially sending me home! I was not happy- He seemed to have every confidence in me though that I was not going home. Bobby said “Angela is much more confident in the kitchen at this time and I don’t want to loose a team member so I’m going to put her in to fight for us.”
Well, I was a little annoyed, but none the less- I’m a fighter so I wanted to make sure I was going to stay in it!
The elimination challenge: to make a dish using an infamous pairing.. CHEESE & SEAFOOD!
Immediately I knew what I wanted to do! I wanted to stay close to my southern roots and make a classic Shrimp & Grits. Turns out I was actually really happy to have Bobby’s attention all to myself, as well as get his input on this classic southern dish.
Bobby had the idea to incorporate mascarpone cheese in to the grits to make them extra creamy, and then I wanted to use smoky gouda to offset the chili seared shrimp. I had never used mascarpone cheese in grits before, but I tell you this- I plan on using mascarpone cheese from now on when I’m making them. It was the most amazing creamy addition!
The best part- was seeing our judge chef Geoffrey Zakarian dig in to my dish and sing praises. He said it was a very smart combination with lots of flavor and he awarded me with the honor of being the best dish up there!
Cheesy Shrimp & Grits
*On the show I used goat cheese because I was trying to go overboard with the cheese flavors, but when I made this at home I found it an unnecessary addition so I’ve removed it here.
2 cups water
1 cup quick grits (or polenta)
8 oz mascarpone cheese
3/4 cup Smoked Gouda Cheese (shredded)
1/2 cup bacon (fine diced)
1 clove garlic minced
1 tbs Smoked hot Spanish paprika
1/2 tbs salt
pinch of fresh ground pepper
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 tbs fresh scallions
1 lb shrimp peeled and deveined
I a heavy bottom pot bring the water to boil, season with a pinch of salt. Then add your quick grits to the boiling water while continually whisking. Whisk frequently, every 1 to 2 minutes, to prevent grits from sticking or forming lumps; make sure to really scrape teh bottom of pot when whisking.
After about 6 minutes taste for texture. I’f they are still grainy and water is gone- add more water and continue to whisk incorporating all.
Grits are done cooking when they are tender to the tooth and the water has all been absorbed. At this point- turn off the heat, but leave the pot on the hot surface. Add the mascarpone cheese, as well as the shredded gouda. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and set aside while you prep the shrimp.
In a large bowl mix your smoked paprika, salt & pepper. Toss the raw shrimp in the seasoning to coat all and really build up a nice seasoned coating
Heat a large skillet set to medium-high heat- cook the bacon until nice and crisp, then remove the bacon from the pan and drain on a paper towel- but leave all that good fat in the skillet.
Add a little canola oil to the skillet if necessary, then place the seasoned shrimp in the pan. Cook about 2 minutes on one side to get a nice sear, then flip the shrimp to finish cooking on the other side. Remove shrimp from pan while you make your sauce.
Add the bacon back to the skillet as well as the minced garlic and thyme. Cook lightly until the garlic almost disappears in to the bacon fat and the thyme is flavorful.
Plate by spooning the grits in a bowl, top with the shrimp, then spoon the bacon, garlic, thyme skillet sauce on top. Garnish with fresh scallions. Serve immediately.