Over the weekend I was working on a recipe based on the traditional low country dish, shrimp and grits. I’d found excellent grits from this company at my grocery store, I tapped my friend and former instructor Eve Felder for her recollections of growing up in Charleston, and I made shrimp and grits for Donna, a late dinner after seeing the amazing Jeff Bridges performance in Crazy Heart.
I’d made extra grits so in cleaning up after dinner, I poured the leftovers into a springform pan and refrigerated them. By morning they were solid and sliceable.
Donna happened to be setting up to shoot wine braised short ribs and semolina egg noodles. I happened to be hungry. I also happened to have some duck sausage and chicken sausage (from Charcuterie) on hand, a gift for helping a friend make them, as well as some eggs from Plum Creek Farm.
“Donna,” I asked, “can I give you this plate when I’m finished and you can shoot it for practice before the beef ribs?” She said sure.
I sautéed the sausage, and then fried the grit wedges in butter. I was going to fry the eggs in the same pan to save a pan, but I really felt like a clean egg flavor, what with all the sausage fat and butter already happening on the plate.
“You ready for me?” I asked, and Donna said, “You bet.”
I plated the sausage and grits, took the egg from the water in a slotted spoon, drained it on some paper towel, slid the jiggly creature between them, and handed it off to Donna, who shot the above photo.
The best part: while Donna photographed, I made an identical plate and ate it while Donna worked. The viscous egg yolk works as the perfect sauce for the grits and the sausage brings salty juiciness to it all. No better breakfast—set the tone for productivity for the rest of the day. Winter weekend breakfasts are the best.
How to make grits:
Everyone should make grits now and then and if you are a cook and have never made them, you know who you are, you owe it to yourself and your family. Grits are traditionally corn soaked in lye to get their skins off, which turns them into hominy. (Get awesome hominy from Rancho Gordo.) This corn is then ground into grits. Polenta/cornmeal is simply ground dry corn.
Make them plain first, with just water, salt and butter, then move on to adding other stuff. It's very simple: simmer them in loads of water (usually about six cups per cup of grits, more as needed depending on how long you want to cook them). Finish them with butter.
The key to grits, according to chef Felder, is a long long cook so that they completely hydrate and become creamy, almost like risotto.
Be sure to find good grits, not instant grits or any grits in a box from a big food company.
If you can’t find good grits at a store near you, they’re worth ordering.
Most chefs I know swear by Anson Mills, for good reason. Great company and products.
These Delta Grind grits have also been recommended via a friend on Twitter, look trust worthy to me.
Cook according to instructions.
For the long cook, per chef Felder, put them in a slow cooker on low, or put them in a 200 degree or lower oven, covered, or on very very low stove top for up to 12 hours. Just make sure there’s enough liquid to hydrate the grains. Add a goodly amount of salt, a teaspoon or more for a cup of grits, late in the cooking. Serve with plenty of butter. Grits love butter.
Grits set up, like polenta, and they can be sliced and fried in butter, as the above grits were. I also started the grits in a pan with diced bacon and onion. That did not hurt.
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