Saturday, October 14, 2006

Making do

It's always interesting to try to cook with or make do with what you have on hand - which is essential now that we live too far out for last minute runs to the store. Sometimes I get a craving for something, find a recipe, but I don't have exactly the right ingredients on hand. Sometimes only a few minor adjustments are needed, sometimes what you end up looks little like what you started out making and sometimes you just have to deny your craving until some other day.

I had planned to shrimp and grits recipe from Epicurious tonight for dinner, something I've always wanted to try and was craving. Then I got a craving for an appetizer. I made the mistake of voicing this desire out loud and suddenly I was roped into making some sort of dip. All I knew is that I wanted to make something hot and cheesey, preferably with cream cheese. Many dips I came across sounded yummy, but most of them called for sour cream and we didn't have any. I finally decided on a buffalo chicken dip - we only had 1/2 the amount of hot sauce called for, but I was pretty sure it would work anyway. And it did. Yummy. And it was plenty spicy enough with the added cajun seasoning. We didn't have very many chips left, but just enough to give everyone a healthy portion.

What I didn't realize as I was making the dip was that I had planned to use the cream cheese as a sub for heavy cream in the grits dish and that I also needed a teaspoon of hot sauce. This was in addition to all the other changes I was already planning on making - like using bottled roasted red peppers instead of fresh, using fat-free half-and-half in place of cream, and Parmesan and Provolone cheeses instead of feta. Turns out my bottled roasted red peppers were moldy, so I had to make yet another change - I chopped up half an orange bell pepper we had in the fridge and added it along with the scallion and garlic.

Fortunately, everything worked. The grits were very flavorful - the sharp provolone was a nice addition - it added a nice bite without being overpowering, so 1/2 cup was just right. The shrimp cooked nicely atop the polenta and didn't dry out as I feared they might (I did toss them with a little olive oil first, just in case).

Shrimp and Grits
This dish has the potential for endless variations - you could probably add any cheese or vegetables you happen to have on hand and still turn out a very satisfying meal. Still, some day, I'd like to try the recipe as written.

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