My mom was a southern girl reluctantly transplanted into northern soils as a young bride. She adjusted to her new home, but she missed the hot, sunny days of her youth, and her extended family. One of the ways she kept her southern roots alive was through her childhood comfort food, which often showed up on my plate.
I was fairly adventurous growing up, but try as I might, I could never sidle up to grits. All we had available in our small town were instant grits, which looked unappealingly watery and lumpy as I moved them around my plate, in the desperate hope that dispersion would be mistaken for consumption. Inexplicably (to me), both of my parents just loved those grits.
Fast-forward to last December, and an unexpected gift of stone ground grits from North Carolina. After briefly considering re-gifting them, I decided to give them a chance. After all, they were the real deal, and probably more like the ones my parents grew up with. I began to experiment with adding cheeses, herbs and milk, thinking back to my early grit years. It suddenly struck me that my most powerful food memories draw me completely into moments connected to a place, a time, and a feeling; the flavor of the food was somewhat secondary. I didn’t love grits as a child, but as I sat over my meal of cheesy, creamy grits, I realized they’d become a comfort food for me too, filled with memories of teasing laughter as my parents observed the wild disarray of grits scattered all over my plate.
- 1 – 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 Andouille sausages, precooked (about 1 cup when sliced)
- 1 cup yellow onion, chopped
- 3 – 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- ½ cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- ½ teaspoon smoky paprika
- ½ teaspoon dried pepper flakes
- 12 cups chopped greens (I used collards and Swiss chard)
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup low-fat milk
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- ½ cup stone ground grits (not instant!)
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ¼ cup coarsely grated cheddar cheese, well-packed
- ¼ cup coarsely grated smoked gouda cheese, well-packed
- dash hot sauce, to taste
- pinch salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Toss the cherry tomatoes in enough olive oil to coat them, lightly salt and pepper and roast for 20 minutes. Set aside.
- Rinse the greens well, and slice into thin slivers. I removed and discarded the stems of the collards, but kept the Swiss chard stems intact. Dry and set aside.
- Slice the sausages into thin rounds. Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan and sauté the sausage until slightly crispy. Set aside the sausage.
- In the fat and oil left in the skillet, sauté the onion until soft. Add the minced garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add the roasted tomatoes and spices, and sauté another minute. Add the greens and toss well in the pan with tongs so they are completely coated with the tomato-onion mixture. Add additional olive oil if needed. Continue to sauté for 5 – 10 minutes until the greens are significantly softened and limp.
- Add the broth and salt, stir, and cover the pan. Simmer for 20 minutes, or until the greens are tender. Add half of the crispy sausage. Correct for seasoning. Keep warm.
- Make the grits by bringing the milk and broth to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add the grits and baking soda, and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer for 15 minutes, continuing to stir so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
- Add the butter, cheeses, and hot sauce, stirring until melted. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Spoon the greens into a casserole dish, topping them with the grits. Chop up the remaining crispy sausage rounds, and sprinkle on top of the casseroles.
- Serve immediately or keep warm in a 350°F oven.
This month is #Greenslove for the Love Blog Hop I frequently join. Check out my co-hosts this month and see what everyone’s cooking. You can add your own greens dish you post the month of March by using the linky tool down below!