Thursday, January 01, 2009

What Hit the Actual Spot

It took me a little while to get any sort of act together for New Year's, so we were at the grocery store last night after NYEve dinner at the lovely Chili's (thanks muffytrue!) buying stuff. By the way, Whole Foods = Broke. Whole Foods is across the street from Chili's so we stopped there on the way out.

I spent, well, about 3 hours this morning creating New Year's Day Brunch for just the three of us. I still had Louisiana on the mind since finding the Creole Hawaiian menu yesterday, so my menu was:

Homemade Beignets
Andouille Sausage for me who like spicy; Sweet Italian Sausage for N and B
Broiled cheese grits
fresh berries with homemade whipped cream

Black eye peas were supposed to be in there, but I couldn't find them in the store last night. It would be cool to say I made the sausage from scratch, but I actually gave Whole Foods half a finger for them (should I just say that I gave them the finger?) Here's the plate:

And now, because I love you all, I am going to reveal the only recipe that more than one person has ever asked me for. Everything else I pretty much foist on people unasked for, but my family members actually ask me how to make my cheese grits, which are a Paca Family tradition. And I will now reveal the secret:

This recipe is based off of an old Soul Food (that was it's title) cookbook I had, but I've modified it since. The recipe is just for a big old pot of cheese grits; I can discuss the broiling and stuff at the end. As you will quickly see, this is not for the lactose-intolerant.


2 cups milk
2 cups water
1 stick butter
3 big spoonfuls of sour cream
1 large egg lightly beaten
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup velveeta
1 cup (and some more usually until it looks right) grits
garlic powder
black pepper


Prep the cheese first, so there's no hassle later. Shred the cheese; cut the velveeta into cubes. Preheat oven to 350. In a large oven-safe sauce pan. Combine water, milk, and half the butter in a sauce pan. When it just reaches boiling (don't let the milk burn on the bottom) slowly add in the grits. 3-4 batches usually. Turn heat to low / medium-low and stir frequently to keep the grits smooth. The should thicken until an air bubble makes the grits pop just a bit. On low heat, add the rest of the butter and some cheese. Stir to melt. Add the cheese in 2 or 3 more batches, stirring to melt each. Add in the sour cream, stir. Add in a nice bit of garlic powder, pepper, and paprika. There should be no evidence of boiling at this time. Add in the egg, stirring constantly. Sprinkle some more pepper and paprika on top for appearance sake. Cover and bake for about 30 minutes. Serve piping hot.

They can actually be somewhat light. It's possible to make a grits souffle though I have not with beaten egg whites. You can also make little grits wedges and then do things with them, just like you can with polenta. To do that, skip the baking stage and pour the grits onto a buttered cookie sheet with a lip or 9 x 13 baking dish so that the grits are about 1/2 inches thick. Stick in the fridge for 2-3 hours until they are firm. All I've done in the picture then is slice the chilled grits into rectangles and broiled them for about 7 minutes. You can also take a rectangle, dip it in flour, egg, and bread crumbs and then fry them up in oil, sorta kinda fritter like.

Obviously, these aren't particularly healthy. I've actually cut back on the dairy products, believe it or not, in the recipe above. The one thing you cannot do is reduce the milk further. It is cooking in milk which gives the critical creamy texture. If you cook in straight water, that's the way you normally get grits at a breakfast place, and is fine, but usually only appreciated by people who grew up with them. You also need a combination of processed American cheese like Velveeta and something else like cheddar. Either one by itself can come out gross.

As for the beignets, this was my first time making homemade beignets or donuts. I followed a recipe from a William-Sonoma cookbook, but the recipe is debatable. I was almost a cup short of the flour they wanted and my dough was firmer than they seemed to want. I need to explore beignet recipes more before I post one. Of course, they are expensive, because you have to spend all this money on cooking oil for the frying; therefore, I may not do them again until there's a special occasion. Now, if the Titans reach the Super Bowl, that might be time for a Paca Party.


Chris Eldin said...

This sounds reallly good!!
I hope my husband will make this for me.
Happy New Year!

Anonymous said...

Paca - thank you for the cheese grits recipe. We make cream of wheat here using semolina and powdered milk (Nido), so I am going to try making a faux cheese grits with the cream of wheat as we do not have any access to grits. Also, we have no access to Velveeta or cheddar cheese so I will substitute cheeses. Perhaps they will be brie/mozarella faux grits. A Bonne Annee! muffytrue

Robin S. said...

Homemade beignets - I'm totally impressed!

I love love love cheese grits - thanks for the recipe, Dr.P.