Momofuku's Shrimp and Grits

This attempt involved improvisation, persistence, discipline and endurance. Welcome to the culinary athletic super zone!

Momofuku's version (the picture takes up two pages):

Our version:
It all began when my coworker, Janice (thank you, Janice!), let me borrow the Momofuku cookbook. (For those of you unfamiliar: Momofuku refers to the restaurant trio of Momofuku Noodle Bar, Momofuku Ko and Momofuku Ssäm Bar in NYC.) I'd read a few reviews that warned if you keep kosher or are a vegetarian than this book probably isn't for you. Personally though, I think that this book is for anyone who loves food and a major challenge. (This shrimp and grits recipe is definitely one of the most accessible.)

Plus, I found chef/owner David Chang to be rather inspiring in the semi-archetypal insane artist kind of way. At moments, he also vaguely reminded me of bon appétempt's first culinary hero--Kenny Shopsin.
So what about the actual attempt and my becoming this strange chef-thlete in the aforementioned super zone? Well, I think it's because for the first time in bon appétempt history, I took some more-than minor liberties with the recipe.

1. It called for the grits to be cooked in homemade dashi broth, which didn't seem that hard to make, but it did involve finding konbu, which meant heading to our fave westside Japanese market, which despite trying to do on a few different occasions, we just couldn't fit into our schedules this week. But already committed to the shrimp and grits, we decided to use chicken broth instead.

2. We couldn't find usukuchi (a light, golden-colored soy sauce) and had to substitute regular soy sauce. And so, with two ingredierts substituted, it felt like we suddenly had license to wing it.
Ironically, I think it's this freedom that really saved us from a total fail in the end. The recipe instructed cooking 2 cups of grits with 2 cups of dashi and 2 cups of water, BUT the back of the box of grits instructed us to use 8 cups of liquid to 2 cups of grits. We followed Momofuku's directions anyway (trusting that Mr. David Chang knew something we didn't) but the grits weren't just way too thick and grainy, they were un-stirrable. It was like trying to stir oatmeal that had been left at room temperature for a few months. So, we ended up unscientifically adding water and stock until it arrived at a more agreeable consistency. (Very chef-like, right?)
I really loved how specific the instructions in this recipe were. I made the mistake of returning this book a little too soon--if I had it in my hands right now, I would quote exactly how detailed the recipe tells you to cook the shrimp. However, I did manage to write down one quote from David Chang, which I believe basically sums up why it is as specific as it is.

"I know the difference between Momofuku and McDonald's: caring. Caring about every detail... What is the point of cooking at all if you're not gonna do it right?" Then, he goes on to write about flipping out on his staff, accusing them of not caring enough. And well, can't you relate a bit? I mean, can't we apply this to everything we really care about in life and that frustration when others--others who are supposed to care as equally and passionately--don't? p.s. please forgive me for the lack of homemade dashi and usukuchi, Chef Chang. I truly did care about getting everything else right. I swear. Like the shrimp for example.
I'll tell you what I remember from the directions: after cooking the bacon, it says to sort of wipe the pan clean. Put it back on the burner set to high. Then, take a small batch of the raw shrimp, which have been tossed in a bowl of grapeseed oil and salt, place them on the hot pan and with a metal spatula (uh, sorry again--we only had plastic.), press down on the small batch for 40 seconds or until 40 percent of the translucent grey color has turned pinkish white. When that happens, flip them and do it again for another 40 seconds.

I don't know if Chang is doing anything wildly unique here, but I just loved how exact he wanted those shrimp done. Plus, I loved how the grapeseed oil didn't splatter everywhere and left the cooked shrimp with a light char and a very clean, non-oily taste.

Truth be told, when you actually get into it, the recipe is not as challenging as it was intimidating. It's really just assembling several relatively simple components, one right after the other: grits, bacon, shrimp, poached eggs, and chopped scallions.

The dish also reiterates a lesson that I've been steadily learning: never underestimate the power of the  poached egg.

All in all, nothing could be better on a late Sunday morning. Though I wouldn't recommend entertaining with the dish unless you are comfortable with being in the kitchen almost the whole preparation time. There's just not much you can do ahead of time apart from soaking the grits overnight.
Uh, remember? I returned the book too early. Sorry. You can buy it here.


Bradley said...

Momofuku's food is culinary art and it's f-ing delicious! Great pick!

George Gaston said...

As a Southern, this dish is manta from the gods. Nothing like a helping of Shrimp & Grits to satisfy the soul. Many thanks...

Courtney said...

amelia that looks GORGEOUS. excellent successful appetempt! i have a huge chef crush on david chang...

erin said...

this is making me hungry. but what does it mean? momofuku?

Mary Anne said...

That looks AWESOME.

I am curious how the egg poaching went. that is something I've yet to attempt.

And, gorgeous photos!!

Jodi said...

mmm...I want to lick the plate clean!!

(Also, blogger is asking me to verify the word "booger" as I write this comment...hee hee!)

Jessica said...

This is my fave attempt to date. I'm a huge sucker for brunch. Must pick up the Momofuku book!

Corinne said...

These photographs are lookin' mighty fine.

Neal said...

We ate at Momofuku over the thanksgiving break. It was wonderful. They have the best pork buns I've ever had. mind blowing.

tom | tall clover farm said...

I considered kidnapping a friend's dog and ransoming her for the owner's shrimp and grits recipe. A clearer head prevailed, but only after stumbling onto this fine example of Southern cooking. Thank you, kindly.

Heather Taylor said...

sidebar: i want to make this.