Stone ground grits cooked with cheddar and smoked gouda cheeses, smokey collard greens, and Swiss chard sauteed with roasted tomatoes.
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.
Cheesy Grits and Smokey Greens Casserole
- 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
- 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.
2. Baking soda facilitates a faster and less worrisome cooking process of the grits due to its alkalinity. If eliminated, add 10 additional minutes to the cooking time.
3. This casserole can be made ahead, and stored in the refrigerator. Preheat the oven to 350°F, and bake for 20 minutes to completely rewarm.