Stanton’s Pepper Bacon and Gulf Shrimp and Grits (say that 3 times fast!)

Printable PDF at the bottom of the page!

Knock knock knock.

Gentleman Caller.

Some dishes are so good, so rich and so indulgent they transcend the barriers of being thought of as “only for breakfast”, “only for lunch”, “only a side dish”… You get what I mean. This is one of those dishes.

Grits. Used to be people would look at me like I had three heads if I asked if they had grits at breakfast time. Usually Northern types in franchise restaurants while I was on tour with a Broadway show. Granted, it does sound like something you’d pave a crude driveway with, would find in a chicken’s gizzard, or put in the bottom of a hamster cage. Regardless, the wonder of sweet white hominy for breakfast seems to be slowly gaining popularity and exposure.

This concoction is not exactly a waist-trimmer. But blow it off – it’s so damn good if you take it as a casserole to a party, you’ll find yourself back on that guest list till you’re tired of RSVP-ing.

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My cousin, Allen Stanton, is running our family grocery store down in Alvin, Texas. My great-grandfather, George Elliot Stanton, turned a feed store into a successful department store in the course of several decades from 1922 till his death on December 7, 1984. He was running across a highway and got hit by a car at 86 years old. That should tell you a little something about Grandpa Stanton.

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Allen has molded the store into a superior meat market, winning awards and serving many high-end restauranteurs in the Houston area. (www.StantonMeats.com)

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Yes, reader, that is kangaroo, wild boar and other exotic meats including Texas Hill Country venison. Delish.

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I popped in on Allen and bought some award-winning pepper bacon. Pepper bacon itself is a treat beyond belief; smoky pork and malabar black pepper? So that set my wheels a-turning on how to incorporate this special ingredient into something truly decadent.

I tested the recipe for mom and Dennis, my step-dad. They cursed me for days as they annihilated the leftovers after I had flown back to New York. It’s not something you should eat every day… but it’s damn hard not to if it’s in the fridge.

So go find your fat pants, set them out and let’s get started.

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What you need:

  • 1 cup of 5 minute grits (NOT instant)
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 8 slices of pepper bacon, or bacon of your choice (avoid varieties that are sweet)
  • 1 lb Gulf Shrimp, peeled and deveined (bigger is better)
  • 2 cups extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated (reserve 1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 4 oz ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 tsp sriracha
  • 1 tsp worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp (or so) smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon cajun seasoning (Tony Chachere’s brand)
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper
  • 1 tsp chopped parsley

Yeah, I know that is, like, everything in the whole grocery store… roll with me here.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees (if you have convection option use that). Line a jelly roll pan with foil. Lay the bacon on the foil so that they don’t overlap. Place in preheated oven for about 15 minutes.

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While that bakes, prepare the grits. Bring the chicken stock to a boil, add the grits, cook for approximately 7 minutes. Yes, I know they’re 5 minute grits. Cook them for 7.

Season the shrimp with salt, cajun seasoning, onion powder, and white pepper.

When the bacon is cooked to your liking (it should be crisp but not burnt), remove from oven. Dial the oven down to 350 degrees. Pour bacon renderings into a sauté pan large enough to accommodate the shrimp without overlap. Crank up the heat on the sauté pan, right before the grease smokes add the shrimp. Don’t turn them. Allow a sear to occur (3 minutes). Turn and cook for 2 more minutes. Pull them JUUUUST as they turn pink. DO NOT OVERCOOK YOUR BEAUTIFUL EXPENSIVE SHRIMP! Pull from heat.

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Use cooking spray to grease a casserole dish – this is up to you. I used an oval Corning Ware casserole. A 9×13 would do; you need something that will hold around 3 quarts of volume. Use your brain.

Crumble the bacon with your hands. Put it in a large bowl. Add cooked grits, cooked shrimp, cheddar cheese, ricotta, butter, sour cream, garlic, sriracha, worcestershire, and parsley. Stir it all up till just combined; pour in casserole dish. Sprinkle with smoked paprika to your liking (I like at least a teaspoon). Sprinkle with reserved cheese.

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Shove with love into the 350 degree oven. Check it at 25 minutes. It’s probably not bubbly yet, but check it. Check it every 5 minutes, but it will likely be ready at 35. Ride the line of having the cheese bubble knowing those shrimp don’t want to be cooked any more than necessary.

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Pull it out when you’re satisfied and let it rest for a few minutes. It’s going to be incredibly hot. Also the prevailing scent of cheese, garlic and bacon is going to make you want to stick your whole freakin face in it. Don’t do that please.

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The closer it is to room temp the less sloppy it will be. I prefer it just above room temperature – “picnic temp”.

This pairs beautifully with a sautéed asparagus with lemon. The brightness of the lemon and stemmy asparagus cut the richness of the grits beautifully and the textural component works.

In the meantime, I tested this recipe by making it a couple of times and let me tell you how much is left: none.

Adios for now.

The Gentleman Caller

STANTON’S PEPPER BACON AND GULF SHRIMP AND GRITS

**If you didn’t use pepper bacon, add 1 teaspoon of Malabar or course ground black pepper.

Stanton’s Shopping Center – Grocery Store / Meat Market / Feed Store / Lunch Counter / Hardware Store is located at 219 N. Taylor Street, Alvin TX 77511 – 281-331-4491 www.StantonMeats.com

 

The Gentleman Caller’s Perfect Burger

Knock knock knock.

Gentleman Caller.

Who doesn’t love a burger? As a big fat carnivorous American, I have to say, a burger can be my go-to-late-night-shove-my-face-with-beef.

Buns and meat.

The problem is I don’t like eating store bought ground beef. If given the chance to think about ground beef, my brain will talk me out of eating it. I am not squeamish about meat. I have seen many a cow slaughtered. I think it’s good to know where your meat comes from in a realistic way.

SO… I bought some really nice grass fed organic hippy dippy beef chuck, the kind I was raised on for pennies on the dollar per pound. But I am in NYC. And then I built the perfect Gentleman Caller burger. Does it seem silly to write an article on a hamburger? Perhaps. But this one is classic and correct.

What you will need:

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  • 3/4 lb beef chuck
  • roll of choice – kaiser, challah, I chose this delightful whole wheat roll
  • white onion
  • fresh lettuce
  • large ripe tomato
  • pickle slices (see The Gentleman Caller’s  Granny’s pickle recipe)
  • salt
  • coarse ground black pepper
  • garlic powder
  • mayonnaise

Get out your meat grinder and get to work.

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I like a courser grind on a hamburger.

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You can see how naturally red this grass fed meat is. It’s a real thing…

Form into a patty on wax paper. Handle it as little as possible. The way the meat comes out of the grinder is ideal. There’s no need to mash and thrash and overwork the meat. Why do I keep having to type things like, “Don’t overwork the meat?”

Season one side. You can easily put a half teaspoon of salt, pepper, and garlic powder on each side. 3/4 pound of meat makes a thick patty.

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Heat a non-stick pan. REALLY heat it. You want to achieve a hard sear.

While waiting for the heat, cut your veg the way you like it. I like it like this:

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Ah, don’t those pickles look amazing? They are.

Get the meat, seasoning side down, on the hot pan. Let it go for four minutes. In that time, season the side up. After four minutes flip the burger. Let it go 4 minutes and then turn the heat OFF. **grass fed beef cooks more rapidly than grain fed. Increase cooking time if you aren’t using grass fed.

Allow the meat to rest once the heat is off. Just for a few minutes.

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Look at the perfect sear. Now turn the heat back on. There will likely be some pan juices. Watch for a bubble. Smear a little mayo on both sides of the bun; mash it into the pan drippings.

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Glance at it occasionally and when there is some color on the bun, remove it.

Start building. Mayo, onion on the bottom bun. Patty. Pickles, tomato, lettuce, mustard on the top bun.

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And that’s it, kids. The Gentleman Caller’s Perfect Burger. Shout out to Alvin Dairyland for my early education in burger making.

Till next time.

The Gentleman Caller

The Strawberry Marga-tini – without joining a sorority (video)

Knock knock knock.

Gentleman Caller.

Summer makes me want to drink margaritas. There – I’ve said it.  Sometimes (oftentimes) margaritas, especially in New York City, are teeth-hurtingly-sweet calorie bombs made with low-tier tequila. Let’s eradicate that from our vernacular. Beyond that, let’s see if we can’t re-vamp the STRAWBERRY margarita, the even more maligned sibling of the regular margarita, a sorority girl special, a bridesmaid’s best Becky.

Today the Gentleman Caller is serving you a Strawberry Marga-tini with no risk of making you have flashbacks from your pledge period.

Here’s what you need:

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  • martini glass, in the freezer
  • shaker
  • 2 oz of decent reposado tequila (the kind that looks like tea)
  • 1 oz triple sec
  • 2 oz strawberry nectar
  • juice of half a lime
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp citric acid
  • ice

In a bowl or shallow plate combine citric acid and salt.

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This is creating a reminiscent thing for me. In Alvin, TX where I grew up there are a lot of Mexicans. They always used to eat this weird salt/limon stuff in little packets. I was given one in 2nd grade and I was hooked.

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Do you remember these things? Anyway, back on task.

Cut the lime. Rim the glass with lime juice, then with the salt/citric acid mixture.

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Put ice in the shaker. Add all the remaining ingredients: lime juice, strawberry nectar, tequila, triple sec. Shake it shake it shake it! (see video!)

Pour and enjoy.

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You’re gonna thank me for this one. Olé.

The Gentleman Caller

THE STRAWBERRY MARGA-TINI – WITHOUT JOINING A SORORITY

The Lover’s Mojito (video)

Printable PDF at the bottom of the page!

Knock knock knock.

Gentleman Caller.

I had my best girl, Kelly Felthouse, over for brunch yesterday morning and we had a delicious balsamic pineapple salad (see recipe). I was about to start putting away the leftover and she said, “You could make this into a cocktail. Like a mojito!” Genius.

So we did. Here are the results.

What you need (for 2 cocktails):

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  • 1 cup (scant) leftover balsamic pineapple salad
  • 5 sprigs fresh mint
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • seltzer
  • 4 oz Malfy Italian gin
  • 2 oz limoncello
  • square ice cubes

Put 2 tablespoons of sugar in a shallow bowl or plate. Take 2 rocks glasses: dip rim in the pink liquid from the leftover salad, then roll the rim in sugar.

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Go pick some mint.

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In a jar or pyrex or sturdy glass, add the leftover rim sugar to the leftover salad. Add the mint sprigs.

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Muddle away. Get it all good and macerated. Add the gin and limoncello. Dole over ice into the sugar-rimmed glasses.

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Top with seltzer and give it a stir.

Cheers! A perfect summer cocktail. When I was naming this, I had to give a nod to my KelKel. In Trip of Love, Kelly sang the Lover’s Concerto after meeting my character. So I present to you THE LOVER’S MOJITO!

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Cheers to friends – the new ones and the old. And to you for reading. Till next time.

The Gentleman Caller

THE LOVER’S MOJITO

Balsamic Pineapple Salad – More acid than a 60’s flashback (video)

Knock knock knock.

Gentleman Caller.

Now that Trip of Love has closed (sadly) and I am taking a tiny break, the weekend is for brunch. Hell, any time is for brunch. Who doesn’t get down with brunch fare?

Pineapple is one of my favorite fruits; number two behind cherry. Even though it is a huge pain in the ass to cut up and leaves little black things that resemble mouse shit on your cutting board, that sweet tart acidy flesh makes everything ok.

I didn’t want to serve a block of straight up pineapple today, so I set the wheels in motion.

Here’s what I ended up with.

What you’ll need:

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  • one ripe pineapple
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/3 cup(ish) fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1/2 tsp citric acid
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar **see note at the end
  • at least 5 sprigs of fresh mint

Spread the blueberries on the bottom of a small saucepan; cover in honey. Add juuust enough water to cover (appx 1/3 cup). Crank up the heat. When a simmer is achieved, reduce heat and allow to cook.

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Here come the knife skills: peel the pineapple, core it, try not to eat it. Good luck. I like my pieces cut into 1/4 inch slices with about an inch of width. Sprinkle the citric acid on the chopped pineapple. By the time you finish that, the blueberries should be cooked. Mash them with a fork. Allow them to continue to reduce. If it looks dry, add a splash more water. You do not want it to be watery. You want it to be syrupy. A good test is seeing if it just coats the back of a spoon.

Once achieved, take the blueberries off the heat and stir in the 2 tablespoons of balsamic.

Most likely there is some syrup residue on the sides of your sauce pan. We want that. Put the pineapple into the sauce pan and let it get all that syrupy syrup all over it.

Chop your mint pretty finely. Toss it in.

Put this all in a bowl or serving dish and allow it to cool before serving.

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Just a hint: if you aren’t serving cheesy eggs, grab some chèvre, put it down on your serving plate and put this all over the top. Heaven.

Can you believe this is good for you? Shhh, I never said that.

Bye for now.

The Gentleman Caller

**Balsamic vinegar comes in a multitude of varieties. This recipe doesn’t call for a tart screw top bottle variety. The bottle should be well aged and have a cork. It doesn’t need to be super expensive, but it should be corked.

Pairings: works beautifully with Italian Brunch Pudding.