Thursday, January 5, 2012

It's polenta, y'all!

Recently, my husband has fallen in love with grits. I, being a full blooded Southern girl, have always held the small grains near and dear to my heart. Surprisingly, we mainly eat them for dinner as a side dish to pork loin with some spinach or in a rendition of Shrimp and Grits.

This past weekend, Jacob was off for four days straight so by Monday we had used up our normal "weekend breakfasts" and decided on grits, cheesy eggs and sliced tomato.   We used Old Fashioned Speckled Yellow Grits from Logan Turnpike Mill in Blairsville, GA.  These take a little bit longer to cook than your normal grits and more water as well (I  used a 3 to 1 ratio- I don't know if this is correct- I lost the directions).  I also added butter and a little bit of half and half to add some more creaminess.

As per usual, there were plenty left over for a second meal.  However, left over grits aren't that awesome so I thought I would try something different and see if I could pan- fry them like little Southern polentas.  So I portioned them out into little ramekins with the intention of slicing them into rounds and frying them - kinda like breakfast sausage. It was going to be awesome--like a Southern version of the fried polenta that we served at Fogo de Chao.  I loved those things!

When I took the ramekins out of the fridge last night, I immediately knew that things were not going to go as I had originally thought.  When I had portioned out the grits, I immediately covered them instead of allowing them to cool and there was a lot on condensation - not good for frying.  So I tried to drain as much of the water out of them as possible and then sliced them into rounds. Then I placed them on paper towels to try to drain some more of the water out.  

You would think since I was born and raised in Georgia by two parents who were also born and raised in Georgia, then I would be a master at fryin' stuff up.  I'm not.  I suck at it.  I either put too much oil or not enough or let it get too hot or not hot enough. I try not to fry anything anymore. And not because it isn't good for us, but because I'm tired of the heartache and disappointment when I fail.  Oh - and the mess.  I hate the mess.

So I added some oil to a pan and allowed it to get hot and then began adding my grit patties.  The oil starts popping immediately so I know that A) there is still too much condensation left on the patties and B) it's too hot. The patties are sticking to the pan too much. So I break them up and just let them get brown - kinda like a hash

So for the next batch, I used less oil, turned the heat down and left them alone until they became unstuck from the bottom of the pan by themselves.  This is a method I learned about in my quest to make latkes for Hanukkah one year (I have yet to make some that I consider a success- edible, yes, but not near what my friend, Sarah's mother made the year I spent Thanksgiving with them and Hanukkah started the day after).  They browned up nicely but fell apart on the flip.  I tried patting them back into place with my spatula but to no avail.  Oh well. I will definitely try this again. But I will use a few different methods.  First, I will put the left over grits in a shallow pan and spread them to the desired thickness so that once cooled they can be cut like brownies. Secondly, I will allow them to cool completely before covering and refrigerating.  Third, I will limit the amount of oil and use the "slow and low" approach so that they can fully crisp up without burning. Last, limit the amount of messing with them in the pan.  This is a hard one for me. But, I think that they need to be fully cooked before flipped so that they don't fall apart.  Any other suggestions are gladly welcome.

So, in the end, we didn't end up with "Southern polenta" more like fried grits, but they were still good.

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