GRITS GETS ITS DUE RECOGNITION
Okay folks, the holiday of my dreams, National Grits for Breakfast Day, has been assigned a date: September 2nd. Side note here: Who gets to sit around and come up with all the wacky holidays? I want that job. Back to the holiday – the grits day. Believe me in my home growing up it was NOT reserved for one day in September.
THE GRITS SCHEDULE FROM MY CHILDHOOD
My childhood grits schedule went something like this. One morning you wake up to a plate of venison sausage and a side of grits and you think things couldn’t get much better. But if your dad is a hunter and it’s hunting season, things will indeed get better, because the next morning is smothered quail or dove on grits. Smothered meaning complete with gravy. If you have never had the pleasure of waking up to THAT breakfast, you are truly missing something. Here’s a recipe like the one I grew up with. Don’t forget a fried egg on the side.
But grits weren’t just for hunting season. They appeared as a simple side dish with butter. Additionally, crumbled cooked bacon, ham, or sausage often found their way into our grits. Or sliced bacon and a fried egg. Yum. As an adult, I know now that a steaming bowl of inexpensive hot cereal with only a small amount of chopped meat stirred in, was easy on the budget. Nonetheless, when I eat the same thing today, I still think it’s a treat.
SECOND DAY GRITS
When Mom served plain grits as a side dish, the leftovers always showed up the next morning served as a casserole. I’ll explain how it was invariably done. First, on Wednesday we made more grits than we actually needed. On purpose, of course. Next, while cleaning up from Wednesday’s breakfast, we stirred 2 or 3 raw eggs, a generous dollop of butter, a fistful of grated sharp cheese, a splash of milk, and a few shakes of salt and pepper into the leftover grits. Then we refrigerated the casserole overnight. Finally, we tossed the casserole into the oven first thing the next morning to bake while we all got ready. The result? A creamy, cheesy, delicious way to get Thursday started.
GRITS ON MEATLESS FRIDAYS (the precursor of #MeatlessMondays)
If the holiday inventors think of grits as only for breakfast, they never visited our home on a Friday evening. That was the day when we and many others abstained from meat. Consequently, adapting to #MeatlessMonday was so easy. Check out our Meatless Monday Pinterest board if you’re curious.
Back to Fridays. Often we sat down to a plate of buttered grits and a dish of coleslaw. Then, Dad passed around a platter (that I still have!) with salmon, which we flaked on top of the grits. Sometimes we served a hard boiled egg on the side.
But on a perfect Friday night in my “neck of the woods” we had fried or baked fish – grouper in the good times or catfish in the lean times. We served it Florida style with coleslaw, collard greens, and cheese grits. That’s still a meal that can’t be beat. Unless of course there are hush puppies. Now you’re talking perfection.
But the days of fried food are few and far between nowadays. We have a few healthier ideas. Read on.
ENTER THE ERA OF HEALTHIER EGGS
While adults favor their eggs on the side, many Southern children prefer scrambled or chopped boiled eggs stirred into their grits, and I was no exception. “Eggs on top of my grits, not on the side please.”
Unfortunately, those were the days of grocery store eggs for us. We seemed unaware that these eggs no longer came from small farms, but from huge agribusiness farms. Wisely we have all long since converted to free-range eggs or pasture raised eggs, making a delicious breakfast, even better. Every bowl of grits deserves a perfectly made egg. But you feel so much better if those eggs come from small, sustainable, family farms. Like ours do. If you want to peek at our farms, just click here.
SPEAKING OF HEALTHY
Grits, like many foods, are evolving. And I like to think that we are all choosing healthier ingredients as well as healthier combinations of foods. As a result, our childhood comfort food can graduate to become the base of a power bowl. Add your favorite beans, your favorite veggies, and fresh herbs from your herb garden. This one has black beans, avocado and cilantro. But the sky is the limit. Now top it with an egg: poached, fried, boiled, or scrambled – your choice.
Of course if you were raised in the South, you won’t be able to resist sprinkling on red pepper flakes and a few shakes of “baskie.” (Tabasco sauce) That’s okay, we all have our indulgences.
AND NOW FOR THE PIÈCE DE RÉSISTANCE
Aaah, but I have saved the best for last, and it can be served for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. SHRIMP AND GRITS! (now my own children’s favorite.) Some families make a shrimp creole and ladle it over grits. Oh yeah! That’s delicious. The traditional Louisiana way is with stewed tomatoes and some Andouille sausage, Cajun style. But we prefer our “shrimp ‘n grits” with smoked Gouda.
OUR FAMILY RECIPE IS AS FOLLOWS:
6 regular or 4 large servings
- Chop Gouda into little cubes.
- Peel and chop a few hard boiled eggs
- Crumble a few pieces of yesterday’s crisp bacon, and peel and remove tails from shrimp.
- Bring to boil 4 cups of a combination of chicken stock and milk (cream if company is comin’.)
- Meanwhile in bacon grease (best idea), butter, or oil sauté some green onions. Add chili peppers if you so desire.
- Add two or three strands saffron
- Add shrimp for just a few minutes (until they turn pink), then top with a splash of white wine and a generous shaking of Old Bay or Emeril’s. Use a heavy hand here. Set aside.
- Whisk 1 cup of grits into pot, adding more seasonings. Whisk periodically for five minutes then stir in boiled eggs. (sometimes we sprinkle these on top)
- Toss in a chunk of butter, the bacon, and the smoked Gouda towards the end.
- Fold in shrimp and onion mixture, reserving a few shrimp pieces. Now pour into serving bowl and top with remaining shrimp.
- Serve with sliced avocados and pass that Tabasco sauce.
Mama says, “come get it while the gettin’s good.” Yes indeed the southern life has been transported to Pennsylvania Dutch country and elsewhere! #southernbreakfastmakesmehappy