Grits, Greens and Ham

When I saw this recipe on Serious Eats I immediately thought … “somebody visited the South.”  It’s such a quintessential southern dish, and yet … I had to correct a few regional inconsistencies: grits don’t call for hifalutin’ cheese like Parmesan, kale is not a thing in the land of collards, and I’ve never heard of their hot sauce brands (Louisiana Hot Sauce or Frank’s Red Hot?)  It’s Tabasco or Crystal around our bayou.  But with those adjustments, this made a wonderful, soothing one-bowl meal in between Hurricane Sally and Tropical Storm Beta.

Grits and Greens With Ham

2 cups whole milk
2 cups water
1 cup coarse ground grits
2 teaspoons sea salt
6 tablespoons butter
6 ounces cheddar cheese (white if you want purdy grits)
Fresh ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic
1 shallot
4 ounces smoked ham
1 large bunch collard greens
1/2 cup chicken stock
Hot sauce for serving

Finely grate your cheese — easier done if it’s super cold so stick it on the cold plate in the ice box while you get everything else together.  Mince your garlic and shallots.

Finely chop your ham, remove the stems from your washed greens and cut them into small strips, and make your chicken stock if you’re using bouillon.  With all that prep out of the way, things will go quickly from here.

First thing, get your grits on: bring the milk and water to a boil, then stir in the grits and a couple teaspoons of salt and simmer on low, stirring occasionally, about 25 minutes.  The grits will be thick and creamy.  Turn off the heat and stir in 4 tablespoons of butter, the cheese — we just use a decent white cheddar — and a good grind of pepper and more salt, as needed to taste.

While your grits are cooking — the beauty of coarse ground, they will take just the right amount of time and be WAY more delicious than instant or quick grits — sautee the garlic, shallot and ham together in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter until the aromatics are soft and translucent and the ham is crisping a bit, a few minutes.

Add the greens to the ham mixture a handful at a time, stirring to coat, which will also cause them to collapse and make room for more in the pan.  Once all are in and wilted, add the chicken stock, cover, and cook over low-to-medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, when the greens are tender.  Season to taste with salt and pepper — lightly … give it a taste as the ham will impart a lot of salt.Ladle the grits into bowls, top with the ham and greens and a healthy shot of your favorite hot sauce (go ahead … use Franks if that’s your thing) and enjoy a moment of piece before Gamma spins up in the Gulf somewhere!

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