Sunday, February 27, 2011

Meatless Mondays: Guest Post - Creamy Grits with Fresh Tomato Pan Sauce

As long as they're well seasoned, I've not met a bowl of grits I didn't like, but I know a lot of foodies who won't touch them. These lost souls love polenta, but will tell you that they don't like grits. It's probably due to having been served sub-par specimens.  It's a shame.   
Whether it's sold as one or the other seems to be a regional marketing thing.
Tomāto, tomäto? I'm not a fan of the bar-like hunks of polenta or the super-thin grits you get at some restaurants, but I appreciate this ground corn porridge in all its other forms. A marriage of the two is my favorite way to prepare it; fluffy, thick grits with a fresh tomato sauce to thin it a bit. We ate a version of this twice a month at a (lovely but expensive) brunch place 'til I realized I could make it at home for pennies a serving. It's filling and unusual and sticks to your ribs.

image via here

The main thing to watch with polenta, or very thick grits, is the heat and the whisking. If the mixture sticks to the bottom, it'll burn, so after you've brought it to a boil remember to lower the heat and whisk, whisk, whisk! Monitor the first ten minutes especially well. The mixture will remain homogeneous only as long as you stir, so when it does get lumps, just break them up with your whisk. If your grits aren't pulling away from the pot after 30 minutes, just keep cooking them 'til they do so. If your grits seem a bit dry, wing it and add more milk or water. If your tomatoes aren't quite ripe, add a bit of sugar and salt and cook them 'til they've dried a bit.

Grits Ingredients:
2 cups water
2 cups milk (the higher fat, the better)
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon butter
1 clove garlic, peeled and not chopped
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan (optional)

Pan Sauce Ingredients:
1 tbsp olive oil and a solid pinch of ground chipotle pepper 
or 1 tbsp leftover bacon grease
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 half onion, finely minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp italian parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp un-flavored (re: not the 'chipotle' version or somesuch) hot sauce of choice
lots of fresh ground black pepper

1. Combine all grits ingredients in a saucepan over high heat.
2. Whisk. Do not allow the grits to stick to the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil.
3. Lower the heat as much as your stove will allow. Give it a good whisk every few minutes. If lumps form, just beat them out.
4. Continue to cook 'til the cornmeal forms a single, loose mass and pulls away from the sides of the pot as you stir, about 30 minutes.
5. In a separate skillet, heat the olive oil in a pan on medium-high heat and add the chipotle and black pepper.While the cornmeal is cooking down, quickly saute the tomatoes 'til they split. Add the onions and cook 'til these are pliant. Add the hot sauce and parsley and cook for a few seconds. Remove from heat.
6. Fish out the whole garlic clove. Generously spoon the tomato mixture into bowls and top it with a cup or so of grits.
7. Put something pretty on it. This morning I topped ours with a bit of arugula and green onions tossed with balsamic vinegar and parmesan, but we've done lovely versions with just a few dollops of chevre, some romano shavings, snippets of chives, a crumble of cheddar, a swirl of bacon jam ...

Enjoy and laissez les bon temps rouler!

1 comment:

flynn said...

I call this dish "Shrimp-less Shrimp and Grits," because shrimp and I don't get along, but it's fantastic with these added as well. If you do go this route, add the tomato mixture, using bacon fat, to a pan in the oven and add the shrimp when the tomatoes have burst. The roast shrimp are a nice compliment to the vinegar-y sauce. Add the fresh herbs afterward.