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Grits Cakes

Friday, August 05, 2016

Recipe adopted from Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home.  [Recipe serves 6 people].

...and the journey continues as I work my way through Keller's cookbook.

I almost feel like I should pull a 'Julie & Julia', but then reality starts setting in...  In the meantime, I have all of his recipes that I'm most interested in bookmarked, so hopefully I can make some sort of dent within the next few months.

This week, I went with a modern take on a classic southern staple: grits.  Although usually served right off the stovetop for breakfast, this dish adds a nice tomato-based sauce and fried oregano to make it perfect for dinner or an appetizer.  The dish does take some time if the procedure is followed as the book describes, but the cakes can easily be made in advance (up to the point of pan frying), and the sauce can easily be made on the stove-top rather than by baking in the oven.

INGREDIENTS:

1 garlic clove
3 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
2 cups coarse stone-ground white grits
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces, room temperature
1/2 cup cream cheese, room temperature

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1 cup minced leeks (white and pale green parts only)
1 cup finely chopped fennel
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
(2) 28-ounce cans San Marzana whole peeled tomatoes
3 bay leaves

~1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups Panko crumbs
2 tablespoons finely chopped Italian parsley
Canola oil, for frying
Fresh oregano

DIRECTIONS:

For the grits, line a 9" x 13" pan with parchment paper.  Finely chop the garlic, sprinkle with kosher salt, and work the garlic with a chef's knife to create a paste.  Add the garlic paste and stock to a large stock pot.  Season to taste with kosher salt and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and slowly whisk in the grits.  Cook for 25 to 30 minutes, whisking often.  [Side note:  If you can't find coarse grits, and end up going with the more commonly found finely ground grits, your cooking time will be shorter, and you may need more broth].  The grits will be done when the bottom of the pan remains visible when a spoon is dragged through.  Stir in the butter, followed by the cream cheese.  Season to taste with kosher salt and pepper.  Spread the grits into the 9" x 13" pan and level with an offset spatula.  Cool slightly on the counter, and then finish cooling in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.  [Side note:  This step can be done a day in advance].

For the sauce, preheat the oven to 350° F.  Add the oil, onion, leeks, fennel, and garlic to a Dutch oven, and stir.  Sprinkle with kosher salt and bake uncovered for 45 minutes, or until the vegetables start to get some color.  Add the brown sugar and vinegar, stir, and bake for an additional 20 minutes.  During this time, drain and blend the tomatoes with a food processor or an immersion blender.  [Side note:  If you prefer a chunkier sauce, set aside a few of the tomatoes and dice rather than blend].  After 20 minutes, stir in the tomatoes and bay leaves, and bake for an additional 1 1/2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes.  Season to taste.

Once the cakes are cooled completely, trim off the edges, and divide into 12 equal pieces.  Set up your dredging stations with bowls of flour, whisked eggs, and panko mixed with parsley.  Coat each grits cake into the flour, eggs, and panko, and reserve.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, and add enough oil to coat the bottom by roughly 1/4-inches.  Fry the oregano leaves for just a few seconds, remove immediately, and transfer to a paper towel.  Use the same oil to fry your grits cakes, roughly 1 minute on each side, or until nicely browned.  Transfer to a cooling rack to keep them crisp on the bottoms.

To serve, ladle out a serving of sauce, and top with two grits cakes, followed by the fried oregano leaves.

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