When I first started cooking, many years ago, I thought for something to be good it had to be complicated, probably French, and would take hours to make. I have changed my mind completely, and now think that simple is always best. I also believe that you should cook for where you are. So, most of the time when I have friends over, I am making something Southern. That doesn’t mean that I never make Italian or Mexican but when I want to impress friends, the theme is almost always local, which means Southern or Coastal.
I also like to use local ingredients as often as possible. I have mentioned Original Grit Girls in many of my previous columns, so if I am making grits or something like cornbread, I always use their grits and cornmeal. It is by far superior to any other I have ever used. Yes, it is a tad more expensive, but you get what you pay for.
When I make grits, I use the recipe on the back of the package (2 cups chicken broth, ½ cup cream, 1 cup grits, 2 cups shredded cheese). Grits take some time to make, but contrary to popular belief, you do not have to stand over the stove and constantly stir. Just pass by every once in a while and give it a stir. I never served grits by just plopping down a spoonful on a plate, that is about as unattractive as can be. I pour grits into muffin molds and let them solidify. It makes for much better presentation.
Perhaps my favorite thing to serve with grits is collard greens. I have a small garden and always grow greens as everyone loves the idea of eating greens that were just picked. If you have to use store bought greens, cut the ends off and put them in water for a few hours before you cook them. It will plump them up a bit. How good your greens are depends on how good the ham stock you make to cook them in is. I like to use smoked pork shops to make the stock and simmer them for an hour or so first. It really makes a big difference.
I always serve my mom’s chow-chow recipe with greens, or peas and beans. I’ve given it to you before (1 large can whole tomatoes, 1 chopped onion, 1 chopped jalapeno, 2/3 cup vinegar and 2/3 cup sugar, 6-8 whole cloves. Combine and simmer until thick).
Grits, greens, and chow-chow are one of my favorite dishes, although I sometimes substitute cornbread instead of grits. Either way it is delicious. Enjoy!