Thursday, October 23, 2014

Cheese Grits with Andouille Sausage for Breakfast



Are you a fan of grits, that coarse grained, stone ground corn most often associated with Southern cooking? I'm no Southerner, unless months afloat in SouthEast Alaska count, but I do love grits. Just serve me some grits, an indulgent bowlful of ooey gooey, creamy cheese grits; plain buttered grits, bacon and black pepper grits, cheesy grits, shrimp and grits, grits covered with a sausage gravy or a mushroom ragu... You get the idea, and what could be better on a cool, drizzly morning, than a heaping mound of grits for breakfast? Well, how about a pile of peppery cheese grits topped with a handful of spicy Andouille sausage coins? Add a swirl or two of warmed maple syrup, just because. 

That bowlful of heaven can make me forget any dreary weather outside the raindrop-streaked kitchen windows. Cheese Grits plus Andouille can fuel both body and soul, whether I head out for an adventure, or plan to hang out inside, curled up under a blanket in a comfy chair, reading and listening to the rain.    



Cheese Grits


Grits:
2 1/2 cups chicken stock (or use salted water)
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup stone-ground grits*

1/2 cup heavy cream (optional)
a generous knob of butter 
3/4 cup shredded cheese (I mixed Tillamook Smoked Black Pepper White Cheddar and some fresh Parmesan), more or less as desired
2 spring onions, both white and green parts, sliced thin 
Sea and white pepper (I love to finish with a sprinkle of smoked salt)

To make the grits: 
Use a heavy bottomed 3-quart pot and bring the chicken stock to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the milk, then slowly whisk in the grits. When the grits begin to bubble, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon so the grits don't stick and scorch. Cook according to the package directions, or until the mixture is smooth and thick (simmered about 35 minutes on my stovetop using the Charleston grits shown below). 

Remove from heat and stir in the cream, butter, cheese and green onions; season with salt and pepper to taste. Add more milk or cream as desired for looser grits; they will set up and thicken a bit as they stand.

Topping:
1/2 link of Hempler's Andouille sausage per serving, sliced into thick coins and seared in a hot skillet until heated through, releasing the fat. Remove with a slotted spoon and add to each bowl of warm grits. 


Note: Accompany with a variety of hot sauces for those, like RL, who doses everything with a shot of green Tabasco, or Cajun Sunshine, or Sriracha, etc.

*I prefer coarse, stone ground grits, but when pressed for time I've turned to Albers quick-cooking grits for good results in under 10 minutes. That's Albers Quick Cook, NOT instant grits which turn out as mushy and tasteless as wallpaper paste, or what I imagine wallpaper paste would taste like if I ate any, which I haven't. Maybe less unpalatable than poi, which I have tasted and now avoid? Not even as tasty as the jarred white paste we nibbled on in kindergarten? Now I'm off topic - sorry.  The point is, I want my grits to have some definite corn flavor and a little crunchy texture in each bite.




Saturday, October 18, 2014

Apple-licious Brown Bread



It's apple season; time to make applesauce, rustic apple pie, apple sweet rolls, apple crepes, apple pancakesapple coffee cake, apple quick bread, apple torteeverything apple! It seemed a good time to try apples in Boston brown bread. Why brown bread? Why not, I've never made it before and it does seem to fit the season.

I found a recipe for Steamed Brown Bread in Betty Crocker's New Picture Cook Book, a 1961 volume older than some of my friends, and compared it with a 2014 recipe for Easy Boston Brown Bread found online at seriouseats.com. The ingredients in the two versions were remarkably similar, calling for a mixture of flours including cornmeal and whole wheat, baking soda, buttermilk and molasses. The BIG difference was in the suggested steaming times, 3 hours versus 35 minutes. Wow! Granted the specified container sizes varied from 1-1b coffee cans to 14-oz food cans, but that's still a puzzling time variance. It didn't matter since I confused things further by making a half-recipe in a 28-oz can (left from the hominy I used in this week's posole). OK, forget the math, I would guesstimate the timing.   
Photo: 14-oz can vs 28-oz can, with corresponding height difference as well.
The online recipe became the starting point, with a few tweaks and the addition of one coarsely-grated Fuji apple and some Penzey's Apple Pie Spice. After grating the apple, I squeezed out the excess liquid and let the shreds sit in a strainer while prepping the other ingredients. Some 2% milk plus one tablespoon of white vinegar substituted for buttermilk; it clumped and thickened while the grated apple drained. I used regular rather than blackstrap molasses and whole wheat flour instead of rye flour. 

The recipe recommended steaming the batter in foil-covered cans set in a lidded pot of simmering water until the bread "set and gently pulled away from sides of can, about 35 minutes. A skewer inserted into the center should come out with moist crumbs." Essentially if you can simmer water, you can make brown bread.

The bread did pull away from the sides of the can after 35 minutes, but the skewer came out heavily coated. I left the can in the simmering water for another 15 minutes before moving it onto a cooling rack.

On day one the brown bread was quite moist, almost too moist according to RL, but the flavor was rewardingly deep and tangy.  The apples lurked in the background with no overwhelming appleness in taste or texture, but the cinnamon and nutmeg from the added apple pie spice blend hinted at apple pie. Nonetheless, the result was a huge improvement over any grocery store can of brown bread. 

Breakfast on day two included thick slices of the brown bread, crisped up under the broiler and slathered with softened cream cheese. Delicious! and now it's time to empty some more cans and make another batch, a double batch this time. Apple Brown Bread was indeed, an Apple-licious treat.
  


Apple Brown Bread
based on a recipe from seriouseats

1 very large or 2 medium apples, shredded and drained in a strainer
1 cup buttermilk (or vinegar soured milk)

1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup medium-grind cornmeal
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp Apple Pie Spice

2/3 cup molasses
1/2 cup raisins

1 tablespoon flour (to coat the apple shreds)
Apple butter or cream cheese to serve alongside

Directions:
Shred the apple(s), squeeze to remove juices, and place in a strainer to drain. 
Prepare the vinegar-soured milk if using.
Grease 3 squeaky clean 14-oz cans.

Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
Toss the apple shreds with the tablespoon of flour to coat and add to the bowl. 
Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl and whisk until smooth.

Divide the batter between the cans. Drape a square of foil over each can and press to fit firmly. Set cans on a rack in a large pot and fill with enough hot water to come halfway up the sides of each can.

Cover the pot with a lid and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. When the water simmers, reduce heat to low and simmer until breads are set and pull away from the sides of the can. Test with a skewer inserted into the center after 35 minutes; the skewer should come out with moist crumbs. 

Remove cans from the pot of water and place on a baking rack. Remove the foil and let cool in the can. Run a knife around the inside of the can to loosen the bread; turn the can upside down and tap it to remove the bread.

Cut thick slices and serve with apple butter or cream cheese. Optional: Toast under a broiler to reheat and firm up top and bottom. Sprinkle with toasted walnuts for an appetizer serving.

Submitted to #TwelveLoaves:
#TwelveLoaves is a monthly bread baking party created by Lora from Cake Duchess and run with the help of Heather of girlichef, which runs smoothly with the help of our bakers.
Our host this month is Heather from girlichef, and our theme is Apples. For more bread recipes, visit the #TwelveLoaves Pinterest board, or check out last month’s mouthwatering selection of #TwelveLoaves Pear Breads! 


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