Florida is a conundrum for me.
Home to the team that I am obligated to hope loses this weekend Florida Gators, it is historically a state rich in winning college football programs - a very southern-like quality, if you ask me.
And in the panhandle, dialects sound about like mine. (If you've ever met me, you know that means they are... well... quite "Southern".)
You can order sweet tea in many restaurants as far down as Palm Coast, where I lived for a number of years. But even there, you could only find White Lily Self-Rising Flour (a MUST for good southern buttermilk biscuits) in a few select locations. Grits were available in most supermarkets, but restaurants never served them correctly. Too thin. Not enough salt.
So as the game rolls around this weekend, and my alma mater plays host to the hoard of Gator fans who will invade the Loveliest Village on the Plains (while I sadly stay home after having to cancel my plans to make the trip), I thought a little Florida-inspired fusion food was in order.
Coconut Shrimp & Cheddar Grit Cakes represent the way I feel about my food experiences in Florida. It's neither southern, nor non-southern. The recipe is a combination of only two parts of Florida food (which I might add is quite diverse on the whole and could not be done justice in this humble little blog space.) It's a little bit beach-inspired (oh fresh Mayport shrimp... how I miss you so) with the southern influence that rounds out any good gameday grub around my house.
We're eating these at home this weekend...they may look a little fussy for football food, but they hold up pretty well in transport and are tasty straight from the cooler. I would suggest, though, assembling on site for folks if yours is a tailgate of a more organized order (where perhaps wine would be served?). Or make it super easy and serve a big, warm pot o' grits side-by-side with shrimp and spicy mayo for dipping.
Coconut Shrimp & Cheddar Grit Cakes
I've revamped classic deep-fried Coconut Shrimp in this oven-baked version. A little drier than the original fried version, they benefit from the serve-with of the spicy mayo in this recipe. If you prefer a sweeter dipping sauce, try a combination of orange marmalade with Sriracha & low-sodium soy sauce.
Cheddar Grit Cakes
3/4 cup hot cooked, salted grits
1/4 cup (1 ounce) shredded extra-sharp white cheddar cheese, (I used Cabot)
6 teaspoons breadcrumbs
Freshly ground black pepper
Spray a 12-cup mini muffin tin with cooking spray; sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon breadcrumbs in the bottom of each cup. Combine grits and cheddar, stirring until cheese melts. Spoon 1 tablespoon grits in each muffin tin and sprinkle with black pepper. Refrigerate.
1 egg white
2 tablespoons beer
12 small/medium shrimp, peeled (and deveined, if desired)
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Sriracha
Louisiana hot sauce
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Beat egg white until frothy; add beer and mix until well combined. Dip one shrimp in cornstarch, beer mixture, then shredded coconut. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet; spray lightly with cooking spray. Repeat with remaining shrimp.
Bake at 400 degrees F for 6 minutes; turn shrimp over. Continue cooking an additional 6 minutes or until shrimp are done. Meanwhile, combine mayonnaise and Sriracha; refrigerate until ready to serve.
To serve, top 1 grit cake with 1 shrimp, drizzle with spicy mayo & a dash of hot sauce.