Monday, April 25, 2011

Grits with a Twist

Yes. Today's ingredient for our home version of "Chopped" was grits. I hate grits. In trying to figure out what the heck to do with them, I remembered that there was actually one time when I had grits and liked them. It was in Charleston when my husband ordered Shrimp and Grits. For once they weren't, well, gritty. So, I set out to do something similar, but different, so it would be my own creation, rather than just trying to copy another dish.

With this in mind, I thought about the jambalaya recipe I sometimes make, and decided to make a southwestern version of jambalaya, with grits. Weird? Yep. Stay with me.

I planned to brown some sliced chorizo sausage, then saute some onions in the drippings from the sausage, add some garlic, coat the grits with the fat, then add the liquid to cook the grits and some other stuff to make it flavorful, and voila! Super yummy and ingenious dinner, hopefully not too gritty. Didn't quite work out that way, but close. Here's what I did:

Southwestern Grits

Canola Oil (about 2 tsp)
8 oz chorizo sausage, sliced about 1/4 inch thick
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 bell pepper, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed through garlic press
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 can diced tomatoes
3/4 cup quick grits (I couldn't find regular grits up here in Yankee land)
1/2 roasted poblano pepper, chopped
1 tsp minced chipotle pepper from a can of "chipotle peppers in adobo sauce" (I squeeze the excess sauce off the pepper before mincing it and make sure I don't include any seeds to minimize the heat)
1 Tbsp lime juice
1 Tbsp minced fresh cilantro
1/2 cup sour cream

Things started out the way I had planned. I got my pan hot over medium high heat, added about a teaspoon of the canola oil, threw in the chorizo, browned it up, then removed the sausage to a paper-towel-lined plate. Added about another teaspoon of oil, threw in onions and bell peppers with about a half teaspoon of salt to get them softened and browned up a little bit (I hadn't initially planned on using bell pepper, but decided to throw it in when I grabbed one while grocery shopping).

Everything was going according to plan up until this point. Then I became indecisive. I had planned to use a little bit of wine to deglaze the pan. But I also had planned to put the grits in with the onions and fat to get them coated with fat before adding in their cooking liquid. I couldn't really do both of these things properly, so I made a quick decision to go ahead with the wine and deglaze the pan, then reduce it quite a bit and add in the grits at that point. In the confusion about this step, I forgot to add in my garlic before the wine, which isn't a huge problem, but I usually like to add it before I put the liquid in. Anyway, I put the wine in, deglazed the pan, remembered to throw in my garlic, and reduced the wine about half. Then, like a dummy, I forgot that I wanted to put in the grits first, and I poured in the can of tomatoes and the chicken broth before stirring in the grits. Oh well. I stirred, brought it to a boil, lowered the heat to medium, and put the cover on the pot to cook the grits for about 5 minutes (as indicated on the package). I'll add here that the package also said to use 3 cups of water (though I wanted to use chicken broth instead) with 3/4 cups grits, and I'm not sure why I just used 2. Maybe because I thought the little bit of wine left and the sauce from the tomatoes would make up for that last cup?? Whatever, I probably should have added a bit more broth.

Anyway, after the grits cooked for about 5 minutes and started to thicken, I took the pan off the heat, added the lime juice and cilantro and tasted it. The grits were still a bit gritty. I didn't love the consistency of the dish, and it needed more salt. So, I added salt and threw in a half cup of sour cream to improve the consistency. What I ended up with was a good, though not great, dish for dinner. It was kind of spicy, but not too much. It had good flavor, if not wonderful texture. It still needed more salt, but I tend towards under-salting everything since Miss eats what we eat and we can always add more salt at the table.

What I would do differently:

I would probably skip the wine altogether and put the grits straight in with the onions and peppers and fat. I am so curious if that would have helped get rid of some of the grittiness.

I would also skip the bell pepper. It added a little bit of sweetness and some interesting texture, but it seemed out of place and just didn't really work.

I would remember to put my garlic in before adding the grits. Oil, sausage, oil, onion, garlic, grits, then liquid.

I would use more chicken broth. I think too little liquid is the other contributing factor to the grits still being a little gritty. I think I'd use 2.5 cups. I'd also make it regular rather than low-sodium broth, to help with the need for more salt.

I'd wait longer before serving to let the grits absorb the liquid better. Though this wasn't an ideal dish, my husband and I both had seconds, and I think they were less gritty after sitting a little longer.

Overall, the dish was a success I'd say. It was edible. It was even tasty. Like I said, my husband and I both had seconds, though Miss took one bite and said, "I want a beenah (banana) pweese." It could have been better, but I'm pleased with my first attempt at cooking something that I don't even like. I initially told my husband that I would not make the dish again, just because I don't like grits. But I have a nearly full container of quick grits in my pantry, so I might as well try it at least one more time. I'm curious if it will be better if I do it with the changes I mentioned.

I don't know my next ingredient yet. My husband mentioned maybe flank steak. But we're traveling next week to the Farm and I told him I was not ready to take this show on the road yet, so he has some time to decide.

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