George Mendes’s Aldea has earned praise not only for what he does in the kitchen, but also for when he steps out of the limelight and lets a visiting chef take over his space. The latest special guest in the guest chef series at the restaurant is Sean Brock, who won a James Beard Award this year for his work at McCrady’s in Charleston. He shares his recipe for his version of Shrimp and Grits, which he’ll be serving this Sunday, July 18, as part of a five-course meal at Aldea.
“The dish is a representation of the history of shrimp and grits — dating back to the Native Americans of the region — but we’ve updated it with a modern point of view.”
Shrimp and Grits
For the shrimp:
16 large shrimp
Place shrimp in a Vita-Prep or other powerful blender, and cover with liquid nitrogen. Grind into a fine powder, and divide in half. Save one half in the freezer and the other in the refrigerator.
For the shrimp consommé veil:
1 1/4 cup shrimp consommé
1/2 teaspoon agar agar
2 sheets gelatin
In a blender, blend the consommé on medium speed. When vortex forms, slowly sprinkle in the agar agar. Blend for two minutes. Meanwhile, soak the gelatin sheets in ice water until soft. In a saucepan over high heat, bring the agar agar and consommé mixture to a boil. Simmer for two minutes, while stirring with a spatula. Remove the gelatin from the ice water, and squeeze out all excess water. Remove the saucepan from the heat, and add the gelatin, stirring to dissolve. Season as needed. Spread into very thin layers on sheet trays to cool. When the gel is set, cut with a ring mold.
For the puffed shrimp:
10 1/2 ounces shrimp
1 cup tapioca flour
3 1/2 tablespoons shrimp consommé
In a blender, purée the shrimp and consommé until it’s a smooth paste. Add the tapioca flour, and blend until a smooth dough forms. Divide the dough between several vacuum bags and seal. Roll the dough thin inside the sealed vacuum bags, and steam for 25 minutes. Chill the dough, then remove from the bags to dehydrate. When ready to assemble, flash-fry to create the puffed shrimp.
For the grits:
2 cups dried heirloom corn, like Henry Moore or Carolina Gourdseed
7 cups shrimp consommé
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon mascarpone cheese
Place the corn in a Vita-Prep or other powerful blender, and cover with liquid nitrogen. Pulse a few times until the corn resembles coarse grits. Remove the grits from the blender, and, in a saucepan over low heat, cook slowly with the shrimp consommé until they are very soft. Finish with butter and mascarpone.
Stir the shrimp from the refrigerator into the grits, and continue to cook over low heat until the shrimp is cooked. Spoon the grits onto the plate. Cover grits with a veil of shrimp consommé. Garnish with the reserved raw shrimp powder and the puffed shrimp. Finish with your choice of fresh herbs and edible flowers.
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