As Super Bowl mania was building a few weeks ago, my thoughts (and likely yours) turned to feeding the hungry, fervent, largely male masses on game day. There are so many more delicious options than blah pigs in a blanket, team! Get out of the pocket with these tasty little morsels, one of my favorite recipes adapted from Tart Love - Sassy, Savory, and Sweet (Gibbs Smith, October 2011). They're really perfect for entertaining any day of the year. These surprise hot pockets, with their perfect crunch and ooze factor, make idyllic party food or can be a central player for a Sunday brunch buffet. *HH tip: The best game plan is to prep the fillings and the pastry the day before, fill them on cooking day, keep cold for several hours, and fry or bake just before serving.
Feisty Fried Shrimp and Grits Pockets. Photo by Helene Dujardin
Feisty Fried Shrimp and Grits Pockets
(Makes 24 pockets)
Equipment needed: 4-inch round pastry cutter, large pot for deep-frying 2 batches
Master Savory Pastry
Begin by making the pastry, ideally a full day ahead. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a plastic blade, pulse together the flour and salt until blended. Add the butter. Quickly, pulse the butter 40 - 50 times until it's the size of large grains or very small peas. Drizzle the ice cold water through the mouth of the processor, pulsing as you go. Stop pulsing when the pastry comes together in a clumsy, bumpy, loose ball. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and shape into the form of a disk. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least three hours or overnight. Prepare a second batch using the same master savory pastry recipe and repeat the directions outlined above.
The day before service, prepare the grits filling. Bring the grits, half-and-half, water, salt and pepper to a boil in a medium pot over medium-high heat, whisking constantly. Reduce to a low simmer and continue whisking regularly. Add more water as needed and adjust seasonings carefully along the way. Count on about 30 minutes for the grits to cook. The grits are done when they're tooth-tender but still have a tiny "bite." Remove from the heat, whisk in the cheese until melted, and set aside to cool. Refrigerate overnight in an airtight container.
To prepare the shrimp filling, cook bacon in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat until crisp and golden, turning once or twice. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels. Discard all but two tablespoons of the bacon fat and continue. Heat over medium-low heat and add the butter, garlic and celery. Cook about 5 minutes, until just softened. Add wine and seafood stock and cook over medium heat until reduced by two-thirds. Add hot sauce, Worcestershire, tomatoes, scallions, ketchup, cream, herbes de Provence or thyme, prosciutto, and honey. Cook through for a few minutes. At the last minute, season to taste with salt and pepper. Crumble the reserved bacon and stir in along with the raw shrimp. Stir through just to coat. (Note: You don't really want to cook the shrimp at this point, as they will cook when frying. Be careful to barely heat the shrimp through, or they will be tough. Remove shrimp from the heat and refrigerate overnight in an airtight container.)
On the day of service, several hours before serving, roll out the pastry, one batch at a time, into about 1/4-inch thick, even thickness. Cut the pastry into 4-inch rounds, lightly dusted with flour, and arrange neatly on a baking pan. Chill the rounds for 20 minutes to 1 hour. To fill the pockets, place 1 tablespoon of the cold grits on the right side of the circle, flattening gently with the back of a spoon. Top with a heaping tablespoon of the cooled shrimp mixture, leaving 1/4-inch naked pastry border. Seal gently with your fingertips, then press the border gently with the tines of a fork to seal. The pockets should look like fat, crimped pastry crescent moons. Continue until all the pastry and filling has been used. Chill pockets for 30 minutes and up to several hours, covered lightly with plastic wrap.
About 40 minutes before serving, preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Heat oil of choice in a large pot over medium-high heat, until 360-375 degrees F, or until the oil begins to squirm and zigzag around the bottom of the pan and sizzles aggressively when the pastry enters the pan. Fry in batches of 2 or 3 pockets, gently placing each into the hot oil (do not plop or you might get burned)! Cook for 7 minutes, or until the pockets float on top and are deep, golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Keep warm in the preheated oven while frying the remainder. Serve immediately, garnished with fresh scallions or parsley if desired. (Note: If you want to save calories and avoid frying, ditch the oil/frying step and simply preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Arrange the prepped pockets, spaced and in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper for about 25 minutes, or until golden. Be sure to give the pockets a gentle egg wash glaze before popping them into the oven).
Game on! May the best team (and pocket!) win.