With Coffee, It Pays to Be a Homebody

Elevate everything.
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There are a fair number of people who do not believe they're capable of making a great cup of coffee at home. Yes we stock a horde of grounds in the kitchen cupboards, and yes there is something truly euphoric about hearing the drip whirr into action on a weekday morning, but these are all the trials of convenience. Orthodox thinking says that to truly enjoy the tannins, the richness, and the complexities of flavor, one must venture out towards the neighborhood's snooty java house—where we exchange our hard-earned wages in order to learn the subtle differences between a Caribbean bean and an African bean from a bemused barista.  This mindset is out of date. Your countertop can absolutely be the forge of a great brew like Folgers Black Silk.

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"I think making coffee at home is super underrated," says Munchies culinary director Farideh Sadeghin. "People love going out and getting a cup of coffee in the morning, but when you make it yourself it becomes a ritual. It becomes a wakeup routine. It gets you into a routine and makes you feel like you're already accomplishing something in the morning."

Coffee has come a long way. If you’re in your 30s, you probably hold lingering memories of the paper cups and plastic, hotel-room brewers of your youth. Sadeghin notes that in this day and age, investing in, say, a French press or a pour-over is one of the first steps anyone can make towards aficionado status. ("It elevates your day," she says.)

But frankly, before anyone opens up their wallets, it's important to master some of the basics. Before anything, you must choose a quality crafted roast, like the aforementioned Folgers Black Silk. Next, you have to make sure you store it properly. There's a good chance one of your earliest encounters with coffee came from the acrid tang of a bag of grounds left out of storage for far too long. A cardinal sin! In order to appreciate coffee, one must learn how to store coffee. Folgers recommends a three-week maximum deadline to brew their ground roasts once the packaging has been opened, and also to maintain a ratio of a tablespoon of coffee, to every six ounces of water, when stewing a concoction. (Nobody is acting at full capacity while groggy at 6 AM, so we must resist the urge to eyeball our java if we are to turn out a quality morning mug.)

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As for additives, Sadeghin is fine with the basics; half-and-half or milk certainly does the trick, and as always, you should never let the black coffee elitists ever shame you for enjoying a dollop of sweetness or fat in your cup. In fact, Sadeghin highlights a genius coffee hack that brings to mind the culinary traditions of Vietnam; swap in some wonderfully sugary condensed milk, which remains one of the most underrated ingredients in the western world. "It gives you that wham bam thank you ma'am, a two for one," she says. "It adds milk, and sweetens the brew, all at once."

But by far, the most unexplored horizon in coffee's epicurean possibilities is its usefulness in straight-up, savory, main-course cooking. No, we aren’t talking about coffee-flavored ice cream, or toffee, or pastries; though those are all very good, as are any of the recipes listed on Folgers’ vast catalog of dessert. (The cafe con leche muffins, in particular, look incredible.) No, Sadeghin believes that a canister full of coffee grounds is a great way to add a distinct flavor to a variety of roasts, braises, and bakes—offering a unique left-hook to an otherwise by-the-books dish.

"Coffee gives you nice bitter notes, and a bold flavor. It helps accentuate the flavors of the dish, and balance out some of the other tastes and textures," says Sadeghin. "Coffee should be used more with savory recipes." 

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Sadeghin put together an étouffée with a shot of Folgers Black Silk coffee, which was deployed specifically to balance out the flavors of the shrimp and the brininess of the sauce, and she encouraged us to experiment. Folgers is rooted in New Orleans—and has been honing their craft  in the US since 1850 (!)—which makes it a natural pairing with cajun dishes. (The Folgers website has a collection of recipes for main courses as well. Pulled pork cut with coffee, for instance.) 

So together, let's stop the idea that homebrewed java should only be deployed in a pinch. With the right preparation strategies and the correct accouterments, we no longer need to constantly defer to the wisdom of our local coffee houses. You are more than capable of making a great cup of coffee. From the morning grind to an ambitious etouffee, coffee is full of surprises. We just need to be brave enough to explore them. 

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Shrimp Étouffée with Creamy Grits Recipe

From Farideh Sadeghin

Serves 4

Make this warming, soulful shrimp stew spiked with coffee and served over velvety grits. 

for the étouffée:

2 pounds shell-on, head-on shrimp

3 ribs celery 

1 medium yellow onion 

1 bunch scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced

1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and diced 

3 garlic cloves, minced

8 tablespoons unsalted butter

8 ounces tomatoes, finely chopped 

1 tablespoon sweet paprika

1 teaspoon garlic salt

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1 teaspoon onion powder

½ teaspoon cayenne

½ cup grams all-purpose flour

¼ cup brewed coffee, preferably Folgers

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 teaspoons hot sauce

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

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for the grits:

3 cups whole milk

1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste

1 ½ cup corn grits

5 tablespoons unsalted butter

for the poached eggs:

¼ cup vinegar

4 large eggs

1. Make the étouffée: Remove and reserve the heads of the shrimp. Peel and devein them, reserving the shells with the heads. You should have about 12 ounces of heads and shells. Refrigerate the shrimp until ready to use.

2. Place the shrimp shells and heads into a medium saucepan and cover with six cups

3. Dice the celery and onion, adding in the trimmings to the saucepan with the shrimp shells. Trim the scallions, throwing the trimmings into the saucepan as well. Thinly slice the scallions, keeping the greens and whites separate.

 4. Bring the saucepan of shrimp to a low simmer over medium to medium-low and cook for 45 minutes, then strain through a fine mesh strainer, discarding the solids. You should have four cups of stock. 

5. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high. Add the celery, onion, and bell pepper and cook, stirring, until soft, about eight minutes. Throw in the garlic and cook one to two minutes more, then stir in the tomatoes and cook until broken down and soft, about 5 minutes. Add the paprika, garlic salt, onion powder, and cayenne and cook one minute more, then stir in the flour. Cook two minutes, adjusting the heat to medium, then slowly stir in the reserved shrimp stock. Cook until thick, about two minutes, then stir in the coffee. Reduce the heat to maintain a low simmer and cook 15 minutes.