Stone-Ground Corn Grits Couscous with Shellfish, Caramelized Onions, and Glazed Turnips


From The Food of Morocco by Paula Wolfert

This shellfish couscous, a specialty of the southern coastal city of Essaouira, consists of a mound of golden corn couscous in the center of a huge platter surrounded with distinct piles of garnishes including luscious, raisin-rich caramelized onions, tender and sweet fleshed charmoula-soaked shrimps, fast-cooked opened mussels still in their shells, and baby glazed turnips tangled up with their leafy greens.

The squid stock, shrimp in charmoula sauce, caramelized onions, and red pepper sauce should all be prepared one day in advance.

Squid stock:
1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped (2 cups)
Coarse sea salt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 pound cleaned baby squid (fresh or thawed frozen), cut into bitesize pieces, rinsed, and drained
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 pinches cayenne
2 pinches saffron threads
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cups canned or fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced
6 or 7 flat-leaf each parsley and cilantro, tied together
1/2 preserved lemon, pulp removed, rinsed

Shrimp with charmoula sauce:
3 garlic cloves, crushed to a paste teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cumin seed
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
32 to 36 (about 2 pounds) jumbo peeled shrimp
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Caramelized onions:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 pound large white onions, peeled, halved, and thinly sliced
Coarse sea salt
2 tablespoons saffron water
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch of round black pepper
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup squid stock (see above)

Red pepper sauce:
1 cup squid stock
1 teaspoon Turkish hot red pepper paste
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 to 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Pinches of ground cumin, preferably Moroccan, to taste
Sea salt
Sprinkling of freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley and cilantro for garnish

Couscous, turnips, and mussels:
1 pounds stone-ground corn grits
5 bunches (about 24) baby white turnips with leafy turnip greens
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons sugar
2 pounds fresh mussels, scrubbed and debearded
Squid stock
Shrimps with charmoula sauce
Caramelized onions
Argan oil or extra virgin olive oil for the corn grits
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
Red pepper sauce

1. The day before, make the squid stock: Combine the onion, 2 teaspoons salt, and the olive oil in a deep saucepan, cover, and cook slowly for 10 minutes. Uncover and cook until the onions are lightly caramelized and the oil is sizzling, about 10 minutes.

2. Add the squid to the saucepan, and cook until the water it gives off evaporates. Continue cooking until the pieces begin to turn golden, about 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic, spices, saffron water, tomato paste, diced tomatoes, herbs, preserved lemon, and 6 cups water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 1 hour. Turn off the heat and let the pot stand, partially covered, for 1 hour.

3. Strain the stock and return the squid to the stock; discard the debris. Cool, cover, and refrigerate.

4. To marinate the shrimp: Mix the garlic, spices, herbs, oil, and 1/2 cup water. Add salt and pepper to taste. Rub onto the shrimp and allow to marinate in the refrigerator overnight.

5. To prepare the onions: Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onions, 1/2 teaspoon salt, the saffron water, ginger, pepper, and raisins, cover, and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes. Add the stock, cover, and cook for 30 minutes more, or until the onions are tender and juicy. Cool, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

6. To prepare the red pepper sauce: Combine the stock, harissa, lemon juice, oil, cumin, and salt to taste, and soak overnight. Heat the mixture in a small saucepan just before serving and garnish with herbs.

7. The following day: About 2 1/2 hours before serving, prepare the corn grits.

8. About 45 minutes before serving, bring the water in the deep pot back to a boil. Meanwhile, peel and trim the turnips, reserving the greens. Wash and stem the leaves. Set the steamer in place, add the turnips and leaves, cover, and steam for 15 minutes. Remove to paper towels to drain.

9. Return the grits to the steamer, season with salt and pepper, cover, and steam for 15 to 20 minutes.

10. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil with the sugar in a large skillet. Add the turnips and greens and sauté until glazed. Remove to a side dish.

11. Scrape the marinated shrimp into the skillet, add the remaining tablespoon of oil, raise the heat, and sauté until firm and curled, 2 to 4 minutes. Remove to a side dish.

12. Scrape the caramelized onion and raisins mixture into the skillet and heat until sizzling. Correct the seasoning and move to a side dish.

13. Raise the heat, add the mussels, cover the skillet, and cook until the mussels open; discard those that do not open.

14. Add the remaining squid stock to the skillet and bring to a boil. Remove the pieces of squid and add them to the shrimp. Keep the stock at a low simmer.

15. Dump the grits onto a large serving dish. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons argan oil, if using, and the butter. Use a whisk to break up lumps, then add about 2 cups of the simmering stock and toss well. Shape the corn grits into a mound in the center of the dish. Surround with piles of the mussels, shrimp, squid, turnips and leaves, and caramelized onion mixture. Scatter the cilantro on top, and serve with the remaining warm squid stock and the warm red pepper sauce.

Serves 8.