Recipes From The Heart-XXXVIII

These are optimistic recipes, food that inspires celebration of family and friendships. Each bite and sip is a personal affirmation that each moment we’re together is sacred and should rightly be celebrated.

Southern Baked Grits

Chef Frank Stitt’s recipe takes this dish to a high level.

“This signature dish is simple Southern with a little finesse. The grits are baked in individual ramekins, then served with a buttery Parmesan sauce, garnished with wild mushrooms and strips of country ham. This is pure comfort, warm and homey with a soothing contrast in textures. Organic stone-ground corn grits are essential—don’t even think about trying this with ‘quick’ grits!”—Frank Stitt, Birmingham, Alabama

Ingredients:

 4 cups water, preferably spring water
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1 cup yellow stone-ground grits, preferably organic
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Freshly ground white pepper to taste
1 large egg, beaten

For the sauce:

½ cup white wine
¼ cup sherry vinegar, or to taste
2 shallots, minced
1 bay leaf
1 dried red chile pepper
1 to 2 ounces country ham (trimmings, end pieces, and scraps from the shank are fine)
1 tbsp. heavy cream
8 tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
2 tbsp. finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper
Juice of ½ lemon, or to taste
Hot sauce, such as Tabasco or Cholula
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 thin slices country ham or prosciutto, cut into julienne strips
½ cup chanterelle, morel, shiitake, or oyster mushrooms, cut into 1- to 2-inch pieces
1 shallot, minced
Thyme leaves for garnish

Preparation:

In a large heavy saucepan, bring the water and salt to a boil. Stirring with a wooden spoon, add the grits in a slow, steady stream and cook, stirring frequently, until thickened and tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Remove from the heat and add the butter, Parmigiano, and white pepper, stirring until combined. Add the egg and stir to incorporate. 

Preheat the oven to 375°. Butter eight to ten 4- to 6-ounce ramekins.

Divide the grits among the buttered ramekins, place in a baking pan, and add enough hot water to the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for about 20 minutes longer, or until the tops are crusty and beginning to brown.

Meanwhile, in a medium sauté pan, combine the wine, vinegar, shallots, bay leaf, chile pepper, and ham and bring to a boil. Cook until only 1 tbsp. of liquid remains. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the cream. Whisk in the butter bit by bit, adding each new piece as the previous one is incorporated.

Strain the sauce into a saucepan. Add the Parmigiano and season with salt and pepper, lemon juice, and hot sauce to taste. Keep warm.

Heat the oil in a small sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the julienned ham, mushrooms, and shallot, and cook until the mushrooms are barely tender, 3 to 4 minutes. 

Unmold the grits onto serving plates and turn browned side up. Ladle a little sauce around the grits and top with the mushrooms and ham. Garnish with thyme leaves.

Note: The grits can be baked up to 1 hour ahead and set aside at room temperature. Reheat on a baking sheet in a 400°F oven until warmed through.

Charleston Okra Soup Recipe

Okra Soup is one of the culinary treasures from Charleston.

Ingredients:

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil, plus more if needed
2 cups chopped yellow onion (about 2 medium)
3 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 pound okra, trimmed, cut on the bias into 1/2- inch-thick ovals
Season beef and marrow bone with 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper,
onion, bay leaves, red pepper flakes, paprika 1/4 teaspoons salt.

Directions:

1. Put in a dish, covered, and bring to room temperature approx.1 hour. Pat the pieces dry with a paper towel

2. Pour the oil into a large Dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot over medium-high heat, and when it shimmers, brown the beef and marrow bone batches, if necessary, taking care not to crowd pan and adding oil by teaspoonfuls if the pan becomes too dry.

3. With a slotted spoon, transfer the browned beef and bone to a bowl and turn the heat to medium.

4. Add 1 quart of water and the tomatoes, return beef and marrow bone to the pan and cover. When soup simmers gently, uncover and reduce heat to low. Let cook, stirring occasionally, until meat is just tender, about 1 hour. Add the okra continue cooking until the okra is just tender, approx. 25 minutes.

5. Discard the bay leaves and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Divide among bowls, garnish with parsley.

North Carolina Sonker

Also known as cobbler, this dish has roots in Colonial America.

Wilkes County, NC Traditional Dessert

Ingredients:

3-3 1/2 cups blackberries, washed
3-3 2/3 cups sweet cherries, washed and pitted (I used Bing and Ranier)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 Tablespoons corn starch , or flour
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, use mace if you have it
crust for a 2-crust pie, homemade or storebought
3 Tablespoons butter

Instructions:

Put the fruit, sugar, cornstarch or flour, lemon juice, salt, and nutmeg into a bowl. Toss to coat evenly. Allow to sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.

Place a sheet pan on the center rack of your oven and preheat to 375F.

Rub 1 Tablespoon of butter around the sides of a 8″ or 9″ deep cake pan (mine was 8″ x 3″. You can also do this in an 8″ or 9″ square baker.

Roll out one piece of pie crust to about 3/8″ thick. Cut into strips roughly 3″ wide. Press the strips around the insides of the pan allowing any excess to fold over the edges of the pan.

Roll out part of the other portion of dough into a circle (or square) about the same size as your pan (round or square). Cut slits in the dough–I cut mine into a herringbone pattern. Set aside for the moment.

Pour the fruit and all the collected juiced into the prepared pan and spread out evenly. Cut the remaining 2 Tablespoons of butter into small pieces and scatter over the top of the fruit.

Fit the top portion of dough on top of the fruit. Fold the excess of the bottom crust in over the top crust. No need to crimp.

To Finish and Bake:

Brush the top of the sonker with egg wash and then sprinkle evenly with coarse sugar. I used Sugar in the Raw. Place on the sheet pan in the oven.

After 30 minutes in the oven, pour about 1/2 of the hot dmilk dip (how to below) over the top of the sonker.

Continue baking until well browned and until the fruit juices are bubbling all over, even in the center. This will take about 15 additional minutes. If the crust seems to be browning too much, tent loosely with foil.

Cool to warm and serve, passing the dip.

The Dip:

Stir together the milk, sugar, corn starch and salt in a medium saucepan.

Cook over medium high heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture comes to a boil. Cook, whisking constantly, for 2 additional minutes, and remove from the heat.

Stir in the vanilla. Use half the dip to pour over the sonker while it’s in the oven. The rest is passed at the table for serving.

This sparkling wine works wonders with fruit-filled desserts.

Sir Verde’s Wine Suggestion: The recipes simply must be served with a fine Southern wine. Nothing can be more appropriate than a Cynthiana from Georgia. A bottle from Tiger Mountain Vineyards in Rabun County is perfect for this feast. Finish everything with flutes of chilled Villa Wolf Pinot Noir Rosé.

 Stay safe. Bonne dégustation. Love one another.

Old school journalism describes the style and stories produced by Doc Lawrence. “In everything I do,” he says, “there is a beginning, middle and an end.” One of the top travel writers in the country, Doc is steeped in the heritage of the deep south. Traveling the back roads from Texas to Virginia and on down to Key West inspires stories about local food and wine preferences, community theater, folk art and music often leading to clues for a good story. Heroes include Faulkner, Hemingway, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Ralph Ellison, Dorothy Parker and Willie Morris. An Atlanta native, Doc keeps a well-stocked wine cellar and bar and two outdoor grills. He enjoys entertaining and believes that the greatest challenge for a writer is to keep searching for a higher life. www.thegourmethighway.com | doclawrence@mindspring.com

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