Recipe: Grits with Bacon and Cheddar
Serves: about 6
Drink with: Corsica, filter brewed, or Savoia as espresso
It’s almost too easy to pair a southern classic like grits with Louisiane—although it will work, of course—so I’m having mine with Corsica, the keystone blend that “built” our business. But I can also suggest Savoia, our slightly Americanized tribute to Italian espresso. Both have the rich character and long lasting coffee finish needed to partner such an earthy dish.
When it came to the grits, we looked around at the heirloom varieties that are newly available until we decided to stick with an old favorite of mine: Falls Mills in Belvedere, Tennessee where grits are made from locally grown whole white hybrid corn that is stone- milled with a century-old 32-foot waterwheel in a historic building (once a textile factory).
1 cup grits (www.fallsmill.com)
4 thick strips smoky bacon
1 cup diced onion
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
½ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon coarse salt
4 cups whole milk
2 cups water
1 cup grated white cheddar (or diced if you don’t have a box greater)
Place the grits in a small bowl and cover with 2 cups of cool water. Stir to allow the light bran to rise to the top. Pour off the excess water (taking the light bran with it), leaving the grits in the bowl.
Stack the slices of bacon on top of each other and slice widthwise into ¼ inch pieces.
Add the bacon to a heavy bottomed, steep sided pot over medium heat. (A thick-bottomed pot that can handle heat—both conducting and retaining evenly—is very important as fresh grits have quite a long cooking time and will stick to the bottom of a thin material pot and scorch.) Add and render the bacon, stirring to break up the pieces until the bacon meat is well browned and crisp and the fat is released, approximately 10 minutes.
Stir in the onions and garlic and continue to cook until the onions are lightly translucent and just tender, about 3 to 5 minutes.
Add the thyme, cayenne, black pepper, and salt, mixing well. Then add the milk and water and bring the liquid up to a boil. Pour in the grits in a steady stream while whisking to prevent any clumps from forming. After all of the grits have been incorporated, reduce the heat to low.
Using a flat-sided spoon, stir the grits frequently throughout the cooking process, scraping the bottom of the pan to prevent scorching. The amount of cooking time will depend on the brand and style of grits used, but plan on about 60 minutes.
When grits are tender, mix in the grated cheddar and adjust seasoning to taste.
There is any number of ways to serve these grits. Because we were eating them on a Sunday afternoon, we went with smoked pork chops, sunnyside eggs and a fresh tomato salad seasoned only with salt and pepper. Then we scattered sliced scallion greens over everything and dug in.