Today’s Meatless Monday is brought to you on Tuesday…the start of this week, after the Labor Day weekend. Creamy Garlic Parmesan Grits, toasted under the broiler and topped with a sauté of leeks and portobello mushrooms is comfort in a bowl; this filling dish is the perfect recipe for a delicious meatless supper, a great side dish, wonderful for breakfast, brunch or lunch, too. And, if you don’t have access to grits, this would be delightful with Polenta.
With the last long weekend of Summer gone, and with the official start of Autumn approaching, my mind turns to comfort foods. Being from the South, grits are very high on the comfort food list. Being from the South, but loving to travel, I know that grits (especially stone-ground grits) are kind of hard to come by at times. And, of course, I have a story about that too.
About twelve years ago now, I was traveling with three other girlfriends on our way back from New York. We had been in the Catskills fly fishing and taking a class on instructing fly fishing (my second time doing so) and were in Pennsylvania on our return home. We had driven as far as we could and stopped at a hotel just off the interstate (which I won’t mention by name because it was far from a wonderful stay, clean sheets being one of my evidently unreasonable requirements).
The next morning, before we continued on our journey home, we decided to eat breakfast at the Cracker Barrel adjacent to the hotel. I know from long hard experience that grits can be difficult to find in restaurants north of the Mason-Dixon line; but since Cracker Barrel is a Tennessee-based company, what happened next is surprising.
I ordered my breakfast and asked for a side order of grits (which they had on the menu). But knowing how hard grits are to find north of the Mason-Dixon line, first I asked, specifically, “Now, these are grits, right?” “Oh, yes,” I was assured. So, I ordered some and requested that they melt some cheese on top, if possible. I was so happy I was about to have some delicious cheesy grits with my breakfast.
Not too much time passed, Cracker Barrel being very quick with their service, our meals arrived. I was giddy gazing upon the bowl with white in the bottom and gooey cheese melted on top. And what was in my little bowl on the side, you ask? Cream. Of. Wheat. With cheese. I just had to chuckle. I should have known better. And no…I didn’t eat it. *smile*
So, the purpose of relating this story is to let you know that even if you can’t find grits, you can make this recipe. Just use Polenta (yellow cornmeal) instead and it will be very similar.
The trick, in my mind, to making really delicious grits is in the liquid you use when cooking them. For this recipe, I used a combination of vegetable stock and heavy cream. I’m not going to give the proportions I used, since they will change depending on what type of grits you use, stone-ground or quick-cook or instant. What you’ll want to do is to use half of each stock (or water) and cream to attain the same amount of liquid as you need, according to the package instructions, for four servings. Do the same if you’re using Polenta. All of the other measurements will be correct for that number of servings.
To the grits, I added some butter, thyme, garlic, salt and pepper and finished them with some Parmesan cheese. Once the grits were cooked, I removed them to oven-safe serving bowls and put them under the broiler to allow that cheesy goodness to brown up a bit. While the grits were browning, I sautéed some leeks and mushrooms in a bit of butter, garlic, fresh oregano, lemon juice and a splash of Sherry (you could use a dry white wine).
Once the grits came out of the oven, I topped them with the sautéed mixture. And done. Grits heaven.
I hope you’ll give these a try…they are a dressed up version of a Southern classic.
- FOR THE GRITS (OR POLENTA)
- Grits, cooked according to the package instructions for 4 servings, using half stock (or water) and heavy cream in equal portion for the liquid
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ½ teaspoon dry thyme leaves
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 4 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated
- salt and ground black pepper, to taste
- FOR THE SAUTE:
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup leeks, sliced in half length-wise and diced about ½" thick, washed and drained (This was about ½ of a leek)
- 6 ounces portobello mushrooms, sliced (about 2 cups)
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon fresh oregano leaves, chopped
- 1 tablespoon Sherry (or dry white wine)
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- Cook the grits according to the package instructions, adding the butter, thyme and garlic as they are cooking.
- Just as the grits are finishing, add the Parmesan cheese and stir to melt.
- Add salt and ground black pepper, to taste.
- Remove the grits to oven-proof bowls, one for each serving.
- Place in the oven, under the broiler, to lightly brown on top.
- As the grits are browning, in a medium-sized skillet, over medium to medium high heat, melt the butter.
- Add the leeks and mushrooms sauté for about 4 minutes.
- Add the garlic and oregano and continue to sauté for another minute.
- Add the sherry (or white wine) and lemon juice, stir to deglaze the skillet.
- Allow to cook for another minute or so.
- Remove from heat.
- Once the grits are lightly browned, remove them from the oven and top with equal parts of the sautéed leeks and mushrooms and serve hot.