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Corn Couscous with Spicy Shrimp and Peas

I first heard about corn grit couscous from Paula Wolfert (trust me she’s my catalyst to so many uncovered corners of Moroccan cooking).  I was apprehensive.  I was puzzled. I really didn’t think it would be good – at all. The image I have of grits is a gooey sticky mess with some butter and salt and pepper, certainly not the fluffy tender consistency I associate with a good couscous.

But, we can’t eat regular couscous anymore because it’s made of wheat. I surrendered to my fear of lumpy corn grits and trusted that this would turn out.  It did.  The best part, I actually like the taste of corn couscous as much, and maybe even more than traditional couscous.

corn couscous

I used Bob’s Red Mill corn grits (also known as polenta).  You will notice that the grains are smaller than couscous.  This immediately worried me because the holes in my couscousierre are way too big.  I knew that 50% of this would fall through the holes.  So instead of just adding it to the top of the pot I lined the top of the couscousierre with a thin dish towel that would allow the steam to get through keep the corn grains from falling below.

Before steaming the first time, I spread the grits out into a large bowl and added 1/4 to 1/2 cup of salt water and separated the grains as much as possible.

You may need to add more water, they really should be quite damp but not dripping liquid. Fill the bottom of the couscousierre half-full of water. Transfer the corn grits to the top of the vessel and turn the stove temperature to high.

Traditionally, the vegetables and meat that go on top of the couscous simmer in the pot below the steaming couscous, but because I was using shrimp this wouldn’t work.

Boiling water beneath will work fine for this recipe. Cover the top of the pot with a lid and leave alone for about 20 minutes.  At this point check the grains. If they feel dry then remove and pour back into the bowl you originally used.

Add more of the saltwater and continue the process the same way you did the first time, taking care to separate the grains as much as possible.  Just as with traditional couscous you will steam the grits 3 times.

Corn Couscous Grains

During the third and final steaming prepare the shrimp. What you’ll need;

  • 1 lb fresh shrimp, veins removed and tails off
  • 1 tsp harissa
  • 1 Tbsp crushed garlic
  • 2 tomatoes pureed
  • 2 Tbsp grapeseed or olive oil
  • 2 cup fish or vegetable stock
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp salt
  •  palmful of chopped parsley and cilantro (mixed)
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas

The sauce for this couscous is really very simple.

In a large skillet heat the oil and add the garlic.  Once softened, pour the pureed tomato, cumin, salt, and harissa, parsley and cilantro to the pan and mix well.

Slowly pour the stock into the tomato sauce and bring the heat up.  Once the sauce is bubbling the shrimp and peas can be added. It will only take a few minutes for the shrimp to cook and peas to warm through.  The sauce should have a thinner consistency.

Remove your corn grits once their final steaming is done, and pour into a large serving dish.  Use your fingers or a fork to separate the grains as much as possible.  Top with the shrimp and sauce.  Serve immediately with a large spoon for each diner.  You can also have extra harissa at the table for an added zing!

I am really looking forward to making other couscous dishes with corn grits, and think that it also would make a great side dish with other meals.

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Tom Wirt

Sunday 24th of June 2012

I also think I like corn couscous.better. I've found the towel is I unnecessary for colanders like the ones we make with holes of 1/4" or less. The pre-wetting prevents it.


Sunday 24th of June 2012

Thanks Tom - smaller holes would certainly help. One day I'll be getting one of your beautiful colanders!

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Saturday 26th of May 2012

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Monday 14th of May 2012

I'e never used corn couscous, but that shrimp looks amazing! I sure it would taste good with rice or regular couscous too.