Hey, ya’ll. The weather’s finally warming up and it’s time to get outside to do some cooking. I have a great recipe (she said modestly) for blackened catfish using my trusty black-iron skillet on the grill. It’s posted on the Char-Broil site and if you would be so kind as to hop over there and take a look I’d be in your debt. Just click the link. Go ahead. Click it. Thank you.
Tag Archives: grits
Have you ever noticed that when disaster strikes somehow food is involved at some point? At least it is in the South. A friend told me that where ever he is in the world when he dies he wants to be buried in the South. I told him that would be because he would be assured that the funeral food at the reception would be good.
So disaster struck at the Community Resource Center Sunday night. We are having a little flooding problem in Middle Tennessee. You’d never know it watching the national news. I don’t know why but no one seems interested in major landmarks under water, tens of thousands of people losing their homes and all their possessions and a rising death toll. Can you tell I am quite perplexed at this? At any rate, our building is the white one with the red roof. There are five feet of oily, chemically laden water lapping at the front door. We are dealing with it. Without the glare of national publicity.
But I digress. Food. In this case shrimp and grits. There is nothing more comforting than a bowl of creamy grits topped with spicy shrimp when you are feeling just slightly overwhelmed by the task ahead.
Here’s the thing with grits and this may be the most important piece of advice I’ve given in awhile. Whether they are quick-cooking grits or regular (never, ever as long as you live use instant grits), you must cook them until creamy. Which means don’t pay any attention to the package directions, except for the measurements. And you need to use milk, not water. Adding butter is also a good thing. You have to whisk and whisk and whisk. Not frenetically. Just constantly. And then taste, taste, taste. If they taste “gritty”, they are not done. Whisk some more. I’d say if you spend a good 20 minutes you’ll have good results. A bowl of really well cooked creamy grits will change your life.
Shrimp and grits don’t normally have any vegetable matter in them, but I add some peppers because I foolishly believe it makes the dish healthy. Don’t tell me otherwise. I’m fragile right now.
Shrimp and grits
Regular or quick-cooking grits (not instant!)
6 strips bacon
1 red pepper, sliced into strips
1 yellow pepper, sliced into strips
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined
Juice of one lemon
Prepare grits according to package directions, using milk instead of water so that they are exceptionally creamy.
Fry the bacon until crisp. Set bacon aside but reserve bacon fat.
In another skillet, sauté the peppers in about 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat until browned. Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Remove from heat and reserve.
Sprinkle shrimp liberally with your favorite BBQ rub. Add shrimp to the bacon fat and sauté for one minute on each side or until shrimp have just turned pink.
To serve: Put a couple of ladles of grits in a bowl. Top with shrimp and peppers. Sprinkle with crumbled bacon.
You know, it just occurred to me that I never give portion sizes. That’s just up to you. You’ll have leftovers, so who cares?
“You’re not going to serve those $8 sausages at breakfast are you?” Greer Carlisle asked suspiciously. We were standing in front of the West Wind Farms stand at the farmer’s market one Saturday morning and I was regaling Greer with the wondrous quality of Ralph Cole’s hot sage pork sausage.
Greer goes to church with me and he’s on one of the Men’s Club’s breakfast cooking teams. Ordinarily, breakfast at church is a pretty basic affair: scrambled eggs, sausage, grits, gravy and biscuits, all for a modest monetary donation. But Josh Sutherland, the president of the Men’s Club, has thrown down the gauntlet. He has announced a contest in which each team will try to raise the most money. The winning team will get aprons. Aprons! Well, we are all very excited about that.
I will modestly say that I put on a pretty good spread for church breakfast. Sometimes it’s Emeril’s Creole Bread Pudding. Sometimes Mark makes these delicious breakfast quesadillas oozing with melted cheese. We just try to add a little sparkle to the menu. It is a little unusual that I’m on a Men’s Club cooking team, but that’s probably a story for another day. Maybe I’ll tell that one when I tell you why I’m also the Men’s Club procurer of supplies for the kitchen. Or maybe I won’t. No need stirring up trouble.
At any rate, Greer’s team has stepped it up and he’s now on the prowl to see what we’re up to. Greer has started offering homemade blueberry waffles. And fresh fruit. Last Sunday, he stopped me in the hallway. “You’re not going to do fresh fruit, too, are you?” he probed. “So what are you making next Sunday?”
Ha! I’ve got him on the run now. “Oh,” I said casually, “I’m making Beignets to order.” He looked at me suspiciously. “What’s a Beignet?” I actually think he knew, but he was poking fun at me. “It’s a French doughnut,” I said. “Like the ones they have in New Orleans.” He just shook his head as though to say, “Why would you be making French doughnuts for church breakfast?”
I am not going to tell Greer that they come out of a box, and don’t you either. He would never let me live that down.
But I’m telling you because you’ve got to try this. These things are so addictive Mark and I ate a whole batch ourselves. Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans makes the mix and if you can’t find it at the Publix or wherever you shop, you can order it online.
So I’m thinking Greer will just turn green when he gets to church on Sunday and finds me frying my Beignets, which he thinks I made from scratch, to order in my Fry Baby Deep Fat Fryer. I am proud to say Kirby Horton, another of our team members, invented the to order menu items when he volunteered to make eggs to order a few months ago. This has given our team a distinct advantage over the others.
I am sure that the Beignets will inch us towards victory, but I’m saving the coup de grace for our last breakfast of the year. I am going to digress here to say that coup de grace is French for “blow of mercy,” meaning a blow intended to end the suffering of a wounded creature. That’s not too ugly, is it?
For our last breakfast, I’m making Eggs Benedict. With homemade Hollandaise sauce. To order, naturally.
You know, there are some recipes you’re almost too embarrassed to tell anyone about because they’re so simple they hardly seem worth the effort. Such is the case with Mustard Chicken. I started making this for Mark when we were newlyweds in Reno, Nevada. How we got to Reno from the South is a long story but the bottom line is, I was shocked to discover that there were no homegrown tomatoes, proper grits, country ham or pulled pork barbecue. In short, all my comfort foods had vanished as I crossed the prairie. Actually, they vanished one night in Lawrence, Kansas, when I asked the waitress for unsweet ice tea and she didn’t even know there was such a thing as sweet tea.
The great thing about Reno, however, was that you could buy liquor in grocery stores. There were even little old ladies giving out samples of martinis. I knew I’d found a place I could call home, at least temporarily. And before we moved into our house, we did our laundry at a place called the Duds and Suds, which not only had a bar but also slot machines. Reno has a lot to recommend it.
But I digress. So I was trying to find some kind of food that would at least allude to comfort and I stumbled across a recipe in a bed and breakfast cookbook for Mustard Chicken. I’m sure it was called something else and, quite honestly, I’ve now forgotten where I even got the recipe because I’ve committed it to memory and have made it probably 348 times over the years. Maybe 349.
This is Mark’s favorite thing to eat. It tops steak, even, and that’s almost a miracle. I know it doesn’t look very pretty in the photo and, truth be told, it’s not. I supposed I could sprinkle some parsley over it but that would just be completely unnecessary and a waste of good parsley.
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (if you can find the Purdue Perfect Portion chicken breasts, these are ideal)
1 8-ounce container sour cream (don’t ask if you can make it with reduced fat sour cream – no you can’t)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons honey
Salt and pepper the chicken breasts and saute them in a little vegetable oil over medium heat until lightly browned. Remove from the pan. Drain off any excess oil.
Return the skillet to the stove, still over medium heat, and add the sour cream, mustard and honey. Mix them up well and then add the chicken back in. That’s it!
Notes: You might want to have extra sour cream, mustard and honey on hand because if the chicken breasts are large, you’re going to need more sauce! Just mix up the sauce until it tastes the way you want. Sometimes I add more mustard and honey.
Now, here’s the thing. I think you must serve this over buttered egg noodles. Liberally buttered. With real butter, naturally. For some reason, I always serve peas with Mustard Chicken. Doesn’t that make it healthy? Yes, I think it does.
I am very particular about my grits. I think the people who don’t like them have just never had good grits. This is my pot from church breakfast on Sunday. They were darn good.
When I was a girl, of course, we didn’t have grits because we lived in the North and grits were called Cream of Wheat and eaten with butter and brown sugar. Cream of Wheat was really bland and still is. Grits, as you know, are made from corn and corn is savory and sweet at the same time. When you grind up the corn a certain way (not fine like cornmeal), you get grits. In the store, you find them three ways – slow-cooking grits, quick-cooking grits and instant grits. Stay away from the instant grits at all costs. Just flavorless mush. Go with the slow-cooking grits if you have time. But the easiest and best way is to buy quick-cooking grits. Here’s the secret – don’t cook them quick.
If you do the following, you will learn to love grits. Mix the grits and boiling water at whatever quantity you want based on the package instructions. Now, using a whisk, constantly stir them for at least 15 minutes. That will make them creamy. Then add in a chunk of butter and, if you have it, some cream. Keep stirring. If you don’t have cream, add a little whole milk. Whole milk. They will need a liberal dose of salt and pepper. Add that. Then taste them. They should be creamy and rich and totally satisfying.
If you don’t like grits after making them my way, then I just don’t know what.