Category Archives: seafood

Seared scallops

Fear of food. Fear of expensive food ruined in a pan. My daughter-in-law, Tammy, was feeling the fear in January when we had our Mayhew/Harbin/Mayhew family reunion at the cabin. Tammy is now a world traveler, thanks to her job and she’d had scallops at some fancy restaurant in the middle of somewhere I can’t remember. She wanted to make them. But Tammy can’t cook. Bless her heart.

So we go to the Food City looking for scallops. I am very skeptical. Sevierville is not known for it’s seafood, unless you count fried catfish. But the Food City had them and they were the good kind – dry scallops.

A quick lesson on scallops. When you see them in the seafood case, they’re often labeled “wet” and “dry.” You want dry. The wet scallops have been treated with a solution to keep them fresh. That solution will prevent the scallops from browning in the pan and if your scallops don’t brown, then you’ve just blown $18 a pound and you’ll cry.

So we took them home and Tammy became fearful. I told her, “Girl, there is nothing more simple than cooking a scallop. It’s easier than making Bagel Bites in the oven.” Tammy is known for her Bagel Bites. “All you do is get the pan screaming hot, add a mix of butter and vegetable oil (to keep the butter from burning), salt and pepper them, and throw them in. A minute or two a side. That’s it.”

Seared ScallopsOkay. These are not Tammy’s scallops. I did not have the proper photographic equipment to shoot them in the 17-year-old pan at the cabin. But hers looked very much like this.

The only thing I add is a squeeze of lemon juice at the end. Really, if you have a beautiful ingredient like a scallop why muck it up with anything else? It would be like putting Thousand Island Dressing on a lobster tail.

So no recipe. Just the procedure: Dry scallops, butter and oil, salt and pepper, lemon juice. Hot, hot pan.

Smoke alarm. Did I mention you might set off the smoke alarm? Yes, you might.

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Fried apples and what goes together

Fried ApplesI was making supper the other night – pork chops, dressing and fried apples. And it occurred to me there are certain things that just “go together” – food combinations that I return to again and again.

Some of them could be considered odd or quaint. I have always served King Daddy’s favorite mustard chicken with buttered egg noodles. To do otherwise would be unthinkable. It just wouldn’t be right. On Sloppy Joe night, the Joe must be Manwich and it must lean along side Tater Tots. With ketchup. Ditto the ketchup with fried chicken livers.

Braised short ribs require mashed potatoes. Last night I was provisioning the refrigerator for KD because I am heading to Bunny’s tomorrow to help her unpack at her new home. I made the short ribs and mashed potatoes, but stuck some garlic bread in the oven for another meal. KD actually asked for garlic bread with short ribs. I was horrified. They don’t go together. Turkey sandwiches. Just turkey, mayonnaise, iceberg lettuce, salt and pepper. No cheese. Cheese and turkey don’t go together.

Fish and rice go together. Fish does not go with potatoes or pasta. Flat chicken and green noodles. Only a classic in our home, I’m sure. It’s just breaded chicken breasts and thin spaghetti with pesto. But the chicken breasts must be thin and the noodles must be thin, also. The calorie count is not thin. Corned beef hash with English muffins and blackberry jam. The hash must be from a can. And you must fry it with onions until it is crispy. The jam can be seedless or not. That’s where King Daddy and I part ways. He likes the seeds.

A wedge salad demands blue cheese dressing and bacon. Diet Coke must be present with hamburgers and French fries. Iced tea does not go with hamburgers or French fries. Iced tea does, however, go with chicken salad. I don’t know why.

So what foods “go together” for you? What are your odd and quaint combinations? I hope you disagree with me. It’s always more fun when you do.

 

Fried apples
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 

Serves: 4
 

Ingredients
  • 4 tart apples, such as Honey Crisp or Granny Smith
  • Juice from ½ lemon
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon

Instructions
  1. Core and cut the apple into wedges. As you cut the apples, put them in a bowl with the lemon juice to keep them from discoloring.
  2. Heat the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the apples, sugar and cinnamon. Cook until the apples soften, about 10 minutes.

 

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Filed under beef, breads, breakfast, casseroles, cheese, chicken, pasta, salads, seafood

We might starve

weather map

The Peoples of the South are, of course, petrified. As you can see from this weather map of tomorrow’s weather, there are “minus” signs. The Peoples of the South do not understand. What is a minus? And there are dangerous arrows around Memphis pointing directly in my direction. What are those arrows? I do not know, yet I am very afraid.

So I went to stock up at my beloved Publix and I could see that other Peoples of the South had seen the same map. We understand these life and death situations better than most. A few weeks ago we had flurries. I don’t even want to talk about it.

Storm 1As you can see, there are exactly three buggies at the Publix where there are usually about 180. Yes, that means others sense the impending disaster. And they’re all inside. I think I hear screaming.

Storm 2It’s just as I feared. The Peoples of the South are most fearful of running out of milk and bread during a disaster. The woman next to me fainted when she realized there was no 2 percent left. Fortunately, the paramedics revived her and assured her she could get by on skim until the thaw.Storm 5

Eggs. The symbol of life. And death. Death by starvation. I take the last carton, even though I already have two in my refrigerator. Perhaps I will attempt to whip up a frittata as my frigid hands grasp the cold handle of a cast iron skillet never to be warmed again because the power is now off and my life is ebbing away. Oh, the iron. Or irony.

Storm 4But I must live on for King Daddy, for he would surely starve without me. So I load my buggy with staples such as cornbread mix, chili fixin’s, bacon, lingonberry preserves, Smokehouse Almonds and the latest issue of People magazine. As I said, the Peoples of the South have our priorities straight. As I huddle under a blanket with my dying flashlight, I will at least dimly perceive the brilliance of Kim Kardashian’s make-up tips.

 

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Filed under appetizers, beef, breads, breakfast, casseroles, cheese, chicken, dips, eggs, lamb, pasta, pizza, pork, salads, sauces, seafood, sides, snacks, sweets, tea sandwiches, turkey, veggies

International day with Noah

How many of these foods do you recognize?

How many of these foods do you recognize?

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” – Robert Brault

Which is how Noah and I visited six countries in less than two hours without ever leaving Nashville.

Noah’s in town for the weekend and he wanted to go to the Farmer’s Market for some of West Wind Farms’ super yummy sausage. That boy’s a smart one. He may shop the “manager’s special” in the meat case at the Kroger in Knoxville, but he knows quality and when The Bank is in close proximity he will not hesitate to make a withdrawal on his own behalf. The Bank goes along with this cheerfully. Noah wants to know where his food comes from. That works 100 percent of the time at the Farmer’s Market.

But he also wants to know where other people’s food comes from, as in people from other countries and cultures. Which led to our little thing that I will remember as a big thing.

“You want to go to the Russian store?” I ask as we’re pulling out of the market. Noah has taken Russian three years at the University of Tennessee and he adores Russian food. I cannot tell you how happy I am that there’s a Russian store in Nashville. We head down the interstate to Aleksey’s Market in Berry Hill. Russian butter, cheese, rye bread, pelmeni (sort of like tortellini) and birch juice (a traditional Russian soft drink) go into the basket. We are happy.

“Hey, you know the Mexican place I get chorizo is pretty close,” I say as we load our stash into the car. “You want to head over there?” Of course, he does.

Five minutes later we are walking into the Super Mercado at La Hacienda. LaHa, as it’s known around here, was one of the first authentic Mexican restaurants in Nashville and the grocery next door carries all the good stuff.  Chorizo, an uncooked loose sausage with a spectacular red chile flavor, has seen many a pizza at the Mayhew homestead and has also found its way wrapped into tortillas mixed with scrambled eggs. Mexican melting cheese is a modern (or maybe not so modern) miracle. We buy both.

Bun Thit Heo Quay

Bun Thit Heo Quay

“Have you ever had a Banh Mi?” I ask Noah. “You know, the Asian grocery store is just down the street. And on the weekends, they have special Vietnamese meals, too.” He has never had a Banh Mi, which is a traditional Vietnamese sandwich with roasted pork and pickled vegetables on crunchy French rolls. Another two minutes and we are walking into the wondrous InterAsian Market. One Banh Mi, please, and a container of Bun Thit Heo Quay (crispy roast pork with fresh shrimp over a bed of rice noodles with fresh herbs, peanuts and a spicy sauce).

I am very proud of the boy. He’s gone up and down every aisle at every market we’ve been to, marveling at the diversity of ingredients and sad that he doesn’t know what to do with most of them. Nor do I. But I love the opportunity to learn.

“Well, Noah , if you want to see the Mac Daddy of international markets we need to make one more stop,” I tell him. A few minutes later we pull into the K&S World Market, which has no website and why should it? Everyone in the international community shops there already. From exotic produce to meats hoof to tail to fish so fresh they’re still swimming in tanks, K&S has everything. Since Noah can’t figure out how to transport a live fish from Nashville to Knoxville, he settles on some Pocky (chocolate-covered biscuit sticks from Thailand) and Cholula hot sauce from Mexico.

OK, so I asked at the beginning of this post how many products you recognized. Here are the answers:

How many of these foods do you recognize?

From left to right, rye bread (Russia), Rossiyskiy cheese (Russia), Russian butter, birch juice (Russia), Pocky (Thailand), Kirin beer (Japan), chorizo (Mexico), Bun Thit Heo Quay (Vietnamese), Banh Mi (Vietnamese), pelmeni (Russia), West Wind Farms sausage (America), Kale (America) and Mexican melting cheese.

Enjoy the little things. And get out of your comfort zone. There’s a world of flavor out there, folks. And sometimes you don’t even have to leave home to taste it.

 

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Filed under breads, cheese, salads, seafood, snacks, Uncategorized

Grilled tilapia with pineapple watermelon salsa

Talapia with Grilled Pineapple Watermelon SalsaGrilling. It’s my happy place. Fan’s going on the deck. I can hear someone mowing their lawn down the street. A little glass of wine. And for reasons I am not going to question, a balmy 82 degrees while our brethren in the West are sweating it out at temperatures over 100 degrees. I actually read about a man who was excited to go to Death Valley because it’s supposed to be 130 degrees there today. Really? I would so be running for the darkest, coldest bar I could find.

But I digress. The other great thing about grilling is that it’s hard to make anything that isn’t healthy. I am a great see-sawer when it comes to healthy. Most of the time I try. And then I have to belly up at the pizza bar at Old Chicago Pizza or give in to King Daddy’s pleas to make sausage gravy and biscuits.

But redemption is a beautiful piece of fish and grilled fruit salsa. Everything to love. Nothing to feel guilty about. Except the peanut butter cup cookies for dessert. Oops.

Grilled tilapia with pineapple watermelon salsa
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 

Serves: 4
 

Grilled fish and a fruit salsa are summertime play pals.
Ingredients
  • 2 cups pineapple chunks
  • 2 cups watermelon chunks
  • ⅓ cup red onion, diced
  • ⅓ cup yellow pepper, diced
  • ½ Serrano pepper, seeds and veins removed, diced
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Vegetable oil
  • 4 tilapia filets
  • Your favorite BBQ rub

Instructions
  1. Preheat the grill to high. Skewer the pineapple and watermelon chunks (if you’re using wooden skewers, soak them for 30 minutes in water before using).
  2. Grill the fruit until it has nice char marks on all sides. Remove and cool. Chop the fruit into large pieces and combine with the onion, yellow pepper, Serrano pepper, lime juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly and reserve.
  3. Heat a cast iron skillet on the grill. Add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Season the fish with the BBQ rub and sauté on one side for 3-4 minutes. Flip and continue grilling for another 2 minutes, depending on the size of the filets. When fish is opaque, it’s done.
  4. Serve the tilapia filets with the salsa.

Notes
Serrano chiles vary wildly in their heat level. Give a tiny bit a taste and if it’s very hot, reduce the amount you add to the salsa.

 

 

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Bacon, arugula and shrimp salad – buy the book

Arugula, bacon and shrimp salad

I am a sucker for a community cookbook. Those are the cookbooks written by your grandmothers, aunts, garden club members and church ladies. I love them because I know all those women are bringing their A game. The directions may be a little spotty – after all, many of these women have never actually written down their best recipes before. And there may be ingredients that some food snobs find offensive. Oh, you know where I’m going here. Velveeta, Rotel Tomatoes, lots of cream cheese and the occasional use of Spam. Bring it. Bring it all.

So, since I can not resist a community cookbook, I was an easy mark for Ralph Cole, the proprietor of West Wind Farms (buy the sausage!) and the head of the Franklin Farmer’s Market board. “Hey, have you seen our new cookbook?” he asked as I was narrowing my choices down to maple bratwurst or chipotle sausage. “It’s right across the way. Have a look.”

Franklin Farmer's Market CookbookDang it. I have a stack of cookbooks of which I’ve barely cracked the covers and now I have another one. At least this one will benefit the Franklin Farmer’s Market, which I believe is the single greatest farmer’s market on the planet or at least in Middle Tennessee (no, not the Nashville Farmer’s Market – that is an outdoor grocery store where you can procure those famous native Tennessee crops, bananas and lemons). The book is divided into the growing seasons – spring, summer, fall and winter. And, of course, you’d be embarrassed to cook out of the wrong season since that would mean you had to buy your ingredients at the grocery store where there are no seasons.

So, it being spring at the time of my purchase, I cooked the very first recipe in the book – a bacon, arugula and shrimp salad. Very unusual and healthy dressing and super yummy with the bacon (which is organic if you buy it from an organic producer even though it costs $30 a strip (kidding…kind of).

So. Buy the book: “Eating in Season.” It’s on sale at the Franklin Farmer’s Market every Saturday. Fifteen bucks plus tax. Support the Franklin Farmer’s Market. Don’t make me come after you.

Bacon, arugula and shrimp salad
Author: 
Recipe type: Salad
Cuisine: Contemporary
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 

Serves: 4
 

A refreshing salad with the spicy arugula playing nicely with the salty bacon and sweet shrimp
Ingredients
Dressing
  • 2 tablespoons plain, low-fat yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
Salad
  • 2 slices center-cut bacon
  • 1½ pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 5 cups arugula or a mixture of arugula and other spring lettuces
  • 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes

Instructions
  1. Combine yogurt, vinegar, oil and pepper in a small bowl, stirring well to make dressing and set aside.
  2. Cook bacon until crisp. Remove bacon from the pan, reserving 1 teaspoon drippings in the pan. Crumble bacon and set aside. Add shrimp to the drippings in the pan and saute 5 minutes or just until the shrimp are pink. Do not overcook the shrimp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shrimp to a large bowl. Add arugula and halved cherry tomatoes. Toss gently.
  3. Divide salad mixture among four plates; sprinkle crumbled bacon evenly over the salads and drizzle the dressing over the top.

Notes
I seasoned the shrimp with some BBQ rub before sauteing in the pan.

 

 

 

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I did not cheat. I improvised.

Danielle, Jane, myself, Curt, Scott, Julie, David and Christo with our finished dishes.

Danielle, Jane, myself, Curt, Scott, Julie, David and Christo with our finished dishes.

I would not call it cheating. I just have to say that from the outset. I would call it creative use of ingredients not on the “approved” list but available to all. If they’d only thought of it. But only I did. That is my badge of honor and I will wear it proudly.

We are, all of us, fast friends. The Char-Broil All Star bloggers started as a group of strangers from all over the country and from different walks of life. But we are now a solid band of culinary nerds on parade. Until the grilling competition. Then we become Bobby Flay versus Morimoto in our own delusional version of Kitchen Stadium.

Char-Broil gets all of its bloggers together every year in some unimaginably luxurious setting. We’re pretty stoked about that. After meetings and demonstrations and what-not we get to the meat of the matter. A Chopped-style grilling competition. Winners get bragging rights for an entire year. This year, in Atlantic Beach, Florida, the focus was on seafood. We got a red snapper fillet, some calamari and head-on shrimp. And four ingredients we had to use: a blood orange, sun-dried tomatoes, collard greens and…ta da!…chocolate. There were additional ingredients: lemons, parsley, olive oil, thyme, and salt and pepper.

I am shocked that anyone noticed I had a giant log of butter at my station. Honestly, doesn't everyone have better things to do?

I am shocked that anyone noticed I had a giant log of butter at my station. Honestly, doesn’t everyone have better things to do?

So why would you not want to make a lovely blood orange juice and butter sauce to go over your grilled red snapper? What? You have no butter? Why would you not ask Sheila, my new best friend and the bartender, to procure a little butter from the kitchen? If only it had not come in a giant log. If only I had been able to conceal the butter under a napkin. If only, when Mary from Char-Broil asked what the giant log of butter was, I would have said, “My medicine. I can’t be without it, even for a second.”

For the record, Christo Gonzales used white wine. White wine was not on the approved list. Did anyone say a single solitary word to him about it? Did anyone actually notice that he used it since he was drinking heavily at the time and it could have just been his drink? It’s not as hard to conceal a few wee drops of wine as it is an entire foot-long log of butter.

My teammate, Curt McAdams of livefire, was a trooper. He never even questioned my easily-detected deception. And he didn’t even wince when I took the bold step of adding the chocolate to the collards, which turned out to be a triumph.

Curt took the award-winning photo of our dish. Yes, like children at the end of a Little League season, we all won a category. Danielle and Jane won the big prize, though, for a very fetching entry that involved stuffing seafood into shells. Hey, wait a minute. Shells. Were they on the approved list? Curt and I may have to appeal this to the International Char-Broil Court of Unfair and Arbitrary Judging. I’ll look up the address in a minute.

Finished dish Curt and Catherine

 Livefire Photography, copyright 2013

 

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Do you know how to grill a fish?

FishHere I am in sunny Atlantic Beach, Florida, at the annual Char-Broil All Star Bloggers conclave. It has been a tough couple of days. The All Stars have had to endure multiple hours-long meals with such hard-to-stomach foods as fresh shrimp, oysters on the half shell, mussels, lobster tails and other trash food. You’d think those Char-Broil folks could come up with something tastier. Sheesh. I will not lie. There has been alcohol involved. And 2 a.m. swims in the ocean. And, today, I had to struggle through a massage at the spa. There has been work done, too, but detailing my love of the Char-Broil grills and accessories is not what this post is all about. It’s about the carnage that is about to come. The seafood grilling contest.

Mary and Michael from Char-Broil consider the torture they are about to inflict upon the All Stars.

Mary and Michael from Char-Broil consider the torture they are about to inflict upon the All Stars.

Every year, the Char-Broil folks pit the All Stars against each other in a cooking contest. Last year, it was chicken with five mystery ingredients we had to use. This year it is seafood. This afternoon, the All Stars were beyond excitement because we visited a local seafood store right on the ocean with cases and cases of beautiful fish. And then they made us wait outside. It was like being invited to Tiffany’s and then told we could press our noses against the glass but not touch any of the diamonds. The Char-Broil folks remained inside, selecting our mystery ingredients. We considered stopping some random stranger entering the store and slipping him a five spot to spy for us.

So the fish came out in unidentifiable white plastic bags. There will be five additional mystery ingredients. I am almost positive Marshmallow Fluff will be involved. The contest is not until 7 p.m., strategically planned I am sure to take advantage of the fact that many of us will have had a cocktail or two by that time.  Last year, Christo Gonzales won. But that was completely unfair as he is a trained chef. My partner, Danielle Dimovski (Diva Q) and I came in second. We were robbed, only by virtue of the fact that we thought we could cook an entire chicken in an hour on a pineapple spear which turned out, sadly, to be untrue.

So, I will let you know. We will be grilling not 30 yard from the Atlantic Ocean. I do not know if it is considered cheating to leap into the waves and forage some fresh shrimp. But I can tell you I am not above doing that. Not at all.

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Tilapia in Lemon Caper Butter

 

The price of fish has gotten ridiculous. Have you noticed this lately? Oh, my goodness. It costs more to buy some fish than it does to buy a steak.

In my affordability ring, the only choices right now are salmon, catfish and tilapia unless I decide not to send rent money to my son. I think that would probably be an unfortunate choice. Yes, dear, I know they’re throwing your futon into the alley, but I just had to buy some halibut.

Fortunately, I love tilapia. It gets a bad rap from professional chefs. Too bland. Not fishy enough. I actually think that’s a mighty fine attribute in a fish. And the great thing about cooking these thin filets is that when they look cooked they pretty much are. In other words, when they’re nice and lightly browned they’re done.

Capers. I see you. You’re making that face. You know the one. The “ewwww” face. Stop it. Have you even tried capers? They’re like tiny little pickles. I absolutely cannot make potato salad without them. Even the 8-year-olds in my son’s extremely brief Cub Scout career liked the capers in potato salad. It will cost you a couple of bucks to try them. Money well spent.

Tilapia in Lemon Caper Butter

3 tilapia filets

Flour

Salt and pepper

4 tablespoons butter

Juice of 1/2 lemon

¼ cup capers

Cut the tilapia filets down the middle, separating the thick side from the thin side. Dust filets with flour and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a skillet over medium heat. Saute the filets until they are lightly browned on both sides. When filets are done, add the remaining butter, lemon juice and capers and blend. Pour sauce over filets.

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Shrimp and grits: The new signature dish of the South?

My friend and fellow Char-Broil All Star Blogger, Barry Martin, posed this question to me on Facebook: Is shrimp and grits the new signature dish of the South?

He got this idea from a story in the Charlotte Observer about every caterer and restauranteur in town serving shrimp and grits during the Democratic National Convention. And I have to imagine that many of the people from other parts of the country sampling shrimp and grits must have risen up in wonderment.

But the answer, I think, has to be this: How can any dish that’s been served for centuries in the Low Country of South Carolina be a “new” anything?  I mean Craig Claiborne wrote about them in the New York Times in 1985, for goodness sake. Even the ultimate New Yorker, Bobby Flay, has a recipe for shrimp and grits.

What I think is new is that restaurants are serving them for dinner (or supper, as we say down here). Shrimp and grits is a breakfast food. Brunch, if you’re stretching it. The original name for shrimp and grits was Breakfast Shrimp because that’s what Low Country fishermen ate in the morning. Shrimp were cheap and abundant. They practically jumped into the pot of grits.

Southern food, in general, is enjoying a moment in the national spotlight and that is precisely because it is so originally of this place, of this soil and sea. Fancy chefs may gussy it up with caviar or micro greens, but at the end of the day our food is simple, local and humble.

This whole shrimp and grits fascination is one more passing phase. Remember when just a few years ago, everyone outside the South was going nuts over fried chicken? They were serving it on china in New York City restaurants along with a knife and fork. Give me a break.

And by the way, while I’m on a roll, there are a million different recipes for shrimp and grits. It’s the casserole of the South. How about that for a signature dish? Some people make them with a tomato gravy. Others use a brown gravy. For me, it’s no gravy. Just buttery shrimp and creamy grits. With bacon.

Shrimp and grits

Regular or quick-cooking grits (not instant!)

6 strips bacon

1 red pepper, sliced into strips

1 yellow pepper, sliced into strips

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 ½ pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined

BBQ rub

Juice of one lemon

Prepare grits according to package directions, using milk instead of water and stirring for about 20 minutes so that they are exceptionally creamy. If you add a hunk of butter at the end the grits will be all the better for it. Salt and pepper to taste.

Fry the bacon until crisp. Set bacon aside but reserve bacon fat.

In another skillet, sauté the peppers in about 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat until browned. Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Remove from heat and reserve.

Sprinkle shrimp liberally with your favorite BBQ rub. Add the lemon juice and the shrimp to the bacon fat and sauté for one minute on each side or until shrimp have just turned pink.

Crumble bacon.

To serve: Put a couple of ladles of grits in a bowl. Top with shrimp and peppers. Sprinkle with crumbled bacon.

Serves 4.

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