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Saturday, November 17, 2007

True Grit(s)

Happy Sairdy!

As the title above would imply, I'ma tell y'all a little bit about grits today. 'Cause I find that when I attempt to serve a grit to a non-Southerner, the first thing he or she wants to know is, well, WHAT IS THIS?

A grit is a teenytiny grain of ground, dried, hulled corn, usually white corn. Basically it's a course-ground white corn meal. Preparing grits is simply a matter of boiling up a whole mess of these little teeny grains in plenty of liquid. Most package directions'll say water, but well, that's not exactly right. If you want to make grits so they're really truly good'n creamy, you need to use some milk, too. Mebbe half the liquid should be milk, mebbe more. And, much like rice, for a really neat and interesting flavor boost, you can even use a nice rich chicken stock for the liquid as well. Bonus vitamins!

Southerners eat grits with a little red eye gravy*, butter, CHEESE, salt-n-pepper, hot sauce, you name it. Traditionally a breakfast favorite, grits find their way to the Southern table round the clock these days. 'Cause we can't get enough of them, frankly, and also thanks to the fact that they can be dressed up or down, served all fancied up or plain and simple, creamy and spoonable, baked or even fried polenta-style.

Got it? Ground corn + liquid / Boil until soft and creamy = Good ol' fashioned grits. From there, the sky's the limit, as it were.

Now I'll give you some recipes. (Edited to say, Okay just A Recipe this time.)

My Shrimp and Grits
(If you don't care for shrimp and/or you don't care for grits, make this, and it will completely alleviate both those problems, I promise.)

2 cups of your favorite smoked pork product - Diced ham, smoked sausage, or maybe 6-8 or well, 10-12 slices of bacon (I'm easy. I'll even let you use turkey ham or turkey smoked sausage if you want. I've done it myself and come to no harm at all!)
2 onions, cut into rings
1 red pepper, cut in strips
1 green pepper, cut in strips
2-3 goodly sized garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup chicken stock, white wine or beer
1 lb. of peeled, deveined shrimp (Whatever size you prefer, I like mine on the medium/largish side)
1 tsp garlic salt
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes

4 to 6 cups grits prepared according to package directions, except substituting milk for at least half of the water
1 - 1 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese

Place peeled, deveined shrimp in a collander in the sink and sprinkle with garlic salt and cayenne or red pepper flakes. Toss with fingers to coat. Leave in sink to drain and marinate.

In a large skillet or dutch oven, render fat off meat and cook until meat begins to brown nicely. Remove meat onto paper towels and reserve. Drain pan if necessary or add olive oil to leave 3 tablespoons or so of hot fat in your pan. Add onions, peppers and garlic to fat and saute until veggies are getting tender and the kitchen is starting to smell like you imagine heaven to smell. Add about 1/2 cup of wine, beer or stock and stir/scrape in the pan until the browned meat bits are loosened and begin to darken up the liquids. Now we're gettin' somewhere. Let the liquid reduce a little, maybe for a couple of minutes. Toss in your shrimp and cook, stirring occasionally, until they become pretty, pink and opaque and they curl up. Toss your meat back in to heat through.

In cooking the grits, just wait until they are thickened and soft and then turn off the heat and stir in the cheese until its melted evenly and the grits are yellow/orange.

To serve, spoon grits into individual shallow bowls. Top with shrimp and veggie mixture and a little spoonful of the pan drippings kinda drizzled over the top.

Do not neglect to include those pan drippings, people, they are liquid gold!

Well, I had a couple other recipes to tell you about but they'll have to wait until tomorrow because I'm all outta time. And I'm hungry now, too.

*What's Red-Eye Gravy? Quite simple. You fry a hamsteak or some minced ham or even some smoked sausage in a pan. Remove the meat to your plate, preferably beside a fried egg or two. Then you pour a little water into the pan you cooked the meat in and stir up all the browned bits from the bottom (maybe 1/2 cup). Then you pour in some coffee. Yes I said coffee. Maybe another 1/2 cup. Turn up the heat until it boils and let it reduce about a minute. Serve over hot grits. YUM!

11 comments:

  1. I LOVE LOVE grits! I like to mix mty scrabbled eggs with grits. My granma used to make that for us- yum.

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  2. I just don't know, Megan. This northerner has never had grits. I don't know if I want to try them. I did try okra and collard greens - so maybe someday when I feel South Carolina calling again I'll test them! I must say - you haven't steered me wrong yet!

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  3. You had me until you added the coffee - I am just not so sure about that - I do come from the home of Starbucks, after all!

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  4. Being from the good ole' north, grits have just never been on the menu. However you make them sound like they may, just may be worth trying.
    That red eye gravy sounds rather interesting as well.

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  5. It seems as if every time you mention a certain food, we have had a conversation around here about the very thing.
    My dad grew up in the deep south of Mississippe and LOVES grits. I grew up loving them as well (with tons of butter, salt and cheese).
    I fed them to my children when they were wee but lately not one of them has been a fan. Until last week when my mom served grits for breakfast. So I marched to the store, bought a plentiful supply and tomorrow....oh tomorrow before church we will be oh so southern with big ole bowls of cheesy grits and a side of bacon. And vanilla cream coffee. I might have to go practice making (and eating) some this very minute. I am hungry.

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  6. I think it's the name that turns people off. It sounds rather unappetizing. When you say "creamy" I think "mushy" haha. Like babyfood vegetables. You know? ;) But that's the Yankee in me talking, hehe.

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  7. just tried these two summers ago...but they were made by a 16 year old....who never cooks. I liked them okay....but they were just plain with butter and season salt. I may have to try your recipe though. Sounds devine. :)
    No red eyed gravy for me though. :)

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  8. Most Northerners think they don't like grits, but what is funny is that at my Southern wedding the shrimp and grits were the favorite food devoured by my Northern family:) They still talk about it 2 years later!! Thanks for your recipes. I will try them both.

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  9. One of the great all time Southern meals, which can be eaten for breakfast or "dinner" (especially on Sundays, when one typically eats a big meal at "lunch"):
    Country Ham
    Grits
    Scrambled eggs
    Red-eye gravy (made as Fried Okra so expertly described)
    And a whole HEAP of buttermilk biscuits!

    Man, now I'm HUNGRY!

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  10. Never had a grit (or is it had grits?) My sister transplanted herself to Alabama a couple years back and is finally flying back for Christmas this year--I've ordered her to stash some grits in her carry on. Gotta see what all the fuss is about :)

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  11. I went to a Cracker Barrel the other day to get me some talking from a young lady. I saw on the menu, home made grits and greens (I should have read the fine print, it was definitely not collard greens). So, I was all gitty inside, ordered me some grits and greens and was going to have a good ole time. Well time came and my grits and greens were there, I tell ya what, those greens were nasty. Nope, not gonna try those again, whatever the hell they were.

    And those grits, tasted like bland water paste. They didn't even have cheese or hot sauce to put on it.

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Thoughts?