Tag: grits

Grits and Boudin Make Even Better Leftovers

Much is made of the comforts of Southern food and its has been enjoying praise in many non-Southern cities. My love of Southern food wasn’t really in my mind in college in Virginia, except for Carolina BBQ.

It wasn’t until I lived in Washington, D.C., that I tasted shrimp and grits at a fancy restaurant that my eyes were opened to broader possibilities. I only knew grits as a wonderful breakfast food.

Shrimp and grits have their origins in the Lowcountry and the Gullah people are credited with combining them. Now, it’s not a bad idea for people who have leftover shrimp from dinner to make grits in the morning to combine them. For us, it’s the other way around: we make a batch of stone-ground grits from Georgia and are delighted at how well they keep in the fridge.

Andouille sausage in a cast-iron skillet.

Browning sliced Andouille sausage in a cast-iron skillet.

What to do with the leftover grits? Well, if you live on the Texas Gulf Coast or near it, you can go to the supermarket and get wild-caught Gulf shrimp. Last time, though, there were only a handful of shrimp left and they were unusually expensive. I looked in the freezer aisle and shook my head. Side by side, there were imported shrimp and Gulf of Mexico shrimp packed in nearby by Galveston. The local frozen shrimp were cheaper too, probably on account that they didn’t have to be shipped as freight across the Pacific Ocean.

I grabbed a pack of Andouille sausage prepared in Texas (shhh, don’t tell Louisiana). At home, I sliced the sausage into relatively think pieces and browned them in a cast-iron skillet. Once nicely browned, I transferred those to paper towel.

Saute chopped bell pepper before adding shrimp and sausage.

Saute chopped bell pepper before adding shrimp and sausage.

Now, for the shrimp, we had the unusual situation of being in possessing of frozen cooked shrimp. Usually, we buy fresh shrimp and my boyfriend shells and cleans them. This time, I boiled water, squeezed in the juice of one big Meyer lemon and pour the shrimp in when the water had reached a roiling boil. I also starting cooking up chopped bell pepper and garlic.

Shrimp and grits in a green bowl.

Shrimp and grits are a wonderful comfort food.

Next, it was time to make the roux. I have yet to master the roux. Frankly, I’m not that good at it and should just listen to a friend from New Orleans who makes it with flour and oil. This time, I once again tried butter and flour. You put those in a pan and stir for 10 minutes until it turns brown. My roux was more like beige. Anyhoo, I combined everything: drained cooked shrimp, browned sausage, peppers and garlic and the roux. The leftover grits were heated in the microwave.

Boudin Balls

These are the best if you are at a good Cajun restaurant. To the uninitiated, let me take a step back: boudin is a Cajun pork sausage that includes rice. It has a soft consistency.

Boudin balls browning in a pan.

Browning the boudin balls in olive oil.

We have a tradition, inherited from my boyfriend’s uncle, of stopping at Boudin King in Jennings, Louisiana, when we are driving back to Texas from Georgia. We have a cooler with us just for this purpose. Their fried chicken is outstanding as well. We keep a few links in the freezer.

Ranch dressing with hot sauce.

Store-bought ranch dressing mixed with hot sauce.

We recently grilled some of the boudin and there was a link left over. Here is how I made the boudin balls. I sliced the link lengthwise and peeled off the casing. In a bowl, I smashed up the meat and rice with a fork, then added an egg and beat it all together. Now, I added shredded Parmesan and Italian style breadcrumbs until the consistency was tight enough to scoop into balls with a teaspoon and my hands. I then rolled the balls in breadcrumbs in a cereal bowl. Meanwhile, I had started heating olive oil in a sauté pan.

I browned them all around and while doing so added slices of red bell pepper and some leftover grilled asparagus. For the dipping sauce, I mixed a Greek yogurt Ranch dressing with Frank’s hot sauce. Voila, I liked my homemade boudin balls as much as great restaurant boudin balls. I love boudin balls more than I like boudin. They are the epitome of leftovers being better than the original meal. Just like shrimp and grits!

Always enjoy your leftovers!

The Sage Leopard

Why Cookbooks Remind Us of Family, Love & Happiness

Growing up, I liked to flip through my parents’ cookbooks, especially to look for baking recipes. In 8th grade, I crafted a cookbook for a history project, writing out in calligraphy on parchment paper “receipts” from the Colonial Williamsburg era. I even cooked a meal from these 18th century receipts for my English and History teachers. Judging by the looks on their faces around the dining room table, I may have overdone it with the nutmeg and other spices for the meat.

When we would take the long drive from New Jersey to South Carolina to visit my grandparents, my palate opened up to new tastes, including grits. My grandmother, also a native of New Jersey, had a stack of Southern Living annual cookbooks. I would pull them off the shelf and flip through the recipes, admiring the pretty pictures and imagining being a grown-up cooking a roast or baking a Bundt cake.Stack of Southern Living annual cookbooks.

Grandmother took note of how much I liked the cookbooks and told me I could have them someday. Fortunately, she had many more years after that to enjoy her kitchen and home. After she passed, my father related he could not find the cookbooks, but he brought me her colorful mixing bowls, which I cherish and use just about every day.

As a grown-up, I’ve subscribed to different cooking magazines, but my favorite is Southern Living. Maybe because they are accessible recipes for the home cook and for everyday dining rather than elaborate masterpieces for culinary artists. Or maybe because I like to flip through the magazine and see pretty pictures of homes, travels and recipes. Moreover, I love them because they remind me of visiting my grandparents in South Carolina. I was, and am, so taken by cypress trees, Spanish moss, palm trees and alligators.

This Thanksgiving weekend, my eldest sister recalled a family road trip from New Jersey to Texas and back with multiple stops in between. It was summertime and their sedan lacked air conditioning. It turned out my mother realized in Houston that she was pregnant with me. We all think it’s funny that I moved to Houston as an adult.

When I first arrived for business, I saw palm trees, which made me so happy. And, yes, we too have alligators, but fortunately I don’t see them unless I go to a nearby state park. Still, some neighborhood kids claim to have seen one in our subdivision retention pond and they do hang out in our bayou. I let my dog swim in the pond, but not the bayou, and keep a wary eye on the situation.

We just got back from a road trip we now take at least once a year to North Georgia, where my boyfriend’s family is from on both sides. An important errand was to the grist mill to pick up bags of grits and cornmeal. The real deal stone-ground grains cannot be beat.

While in Georgia, we also returned to a cousin’s home. I stood in the kitchen admiring her cookbook collection, including a stack of Southern Living annuals. When I told her about my grandmother’s collection, she immediately said I could have her Southern Living cookbooks.

Stack of Southern Living magazines.I agreed to take them, but said she can have them back anytime. In the meantime, I have a lot of flipping pages to do! I usually let my magazines stack up for a few months and then go through to tear out the pages of recipes I want to keep in a binder. Now, I have the books to read!

I just pulled out the 2000 one and the first page I opened is about “The Fruitcake Tradition.” I’m not so sure I want to try that, but appreciated the introduction to the recipe notes this is in tribute to a grandmother. Ooh, what about prosciutto bruschetta with cantaloupe chutney?

From the 1984 book, there is a basic crepes recipe. I was just telling my sister about my crepe maker! There is also a section on how to use a food processor to save time when slicing vegetables and fruit. If you lived in the 1980s, you’ll reminder how the Cuisinart took American’s kitchens by storm. I actually have my grandmother’s machine and love it.

I may never have to look up another recipe online with this array of cookbooks serving an encyclopedia of making everyday cooking grand. I’m so excited and will likely share some of my discoveries with you on this blog!

The Sage Leopard