Creole Grillades and Creamy Grits

creole grillades and grits
Deep in the heart of French Louisiana, creole grillades and grits are served for breakfast, brunch or lunch. The dish is pure comfort food in Louisiana. Thin cuts of pork, or chicken are served alongside creamy grits and rich tomato gravy. There are as many variations of this recipe as there are families in the region.

I like Andouille sausage so I added some slices of this to my version of the recipe. I also took the longer cooking versions and shortened them so the simmering time of the tomato gravy is thirty minutes instead of an hour and a half. The tomato gravy is best when made the day before so the flavors can mingle. This works well because you will already have the tomato gravy prepared. The day you plan to serve the dish it will only take forty five minutes to an hour to make the grits, cook the meat and reheat the gravy.

Just so you sound official when you make this dish for your friends and family… grillades is pronounced GREE-yawds! Also included in this recipe is my secret method to achieve truly creamy grits. When you eat them you will say, “Mmmm!” Please note that it is essential to use stone ground grits. If you can’t find stone ground grits at your grocery store just order them online. Enjoy!

Creole Grillades and Creamy Grits– Serves 6

Tomato Gravy
1/2 pound bacon, 1/2 inch dice
1 cup green pepper, 1/2 inch dice
1 cup red pepper, 1/2 inch dice
1 cup sweet onion, 1/2 inch dice
4 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 cup all purpose flour
15 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 bay leaf
2 cups, 33% lower sodium, chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
Garnish: chopped fresh parsley leaves, thinly sliced scallions,
and creamy grits (see recipe below).

Cook bacon slowly over medium high heat in a large skillet until all the fat is released (some of the bacon will be crispy and some will not). Drain bacon and grease into a small colander with a measuring cup underneath to catch the bacon grease. Measure 1/4 cup bacon grease and discard the rest. Reserve cooked bacon. Pour the grease back into the large skillet. Turn the heat to medium low and add the green pepper, red pepper, and onion. You want to cook at a low enough temperature so that the vegetables don’t brown for about 10-15 minutes or until the onions are translucent and the vegetables are very soft.

Add the garlic, cumin and thyme leaves. Cook one minute. Stir in the tomato paste. Cook two minutes to make the flavors bloom. Sprinkle the flour all over the top and stir in. It will be a big glob but don’t worry! Add tomatoes and hot sauce. Stir until combined. Measure and set aside 1/2 cup of chicken broth. Stir the remaining 1 and 1/2 cups chicken broth in gradually. Keep stirring until combined. (You are trying to get the mixture to unclump.) Use the reserved the 1/2 cup of broth to loosen the gravy if it gets too thick while it simmers. Simmer gravy for 30 minutes.

At this point you have two options. Option One: Serve the dish on the day you make the gravy- Cook the meat and grits while the gravy is simmering. Option Two: Serve the dish the next day- Refrigerate the tomato gravy until the next day. The next day: Reheat the gravy. Cook the meat and grits. Garnish dish with chopped fresh parsley leaves and sliced scallions.

Chicken, Pork and/or Andouille Sausage
1/2 pound chicken strips or 2 thin slices pork tenderloin per person or 6 thin cut pork chops
1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning (see recipe below)
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 Andouille sausage links, skins removed and sliced into 1 inch thick coins

Season chicken or pork with Cajun seasoning. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. When oil is shimmering add chicken or pork and cook until done. Remove meat and reserve. Add sausage to the same skillet and cook over medium heat until cooked through and browned on all sides. Reserve sausage.

Creamy Grits
1 cup stone ground grits
2 cups water
2 and 1/2 cups 2% milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick unsalted butter, sliced

The secret to creamy grits is soaking the grits overnight before you cook them. Grits are made of ground, dried, corn. Soaking helps the grits to rehydrate and plump up. In a medium saucepan with a lid, add grits, water, milk and salt. Cover saucepan with a lid. Soak overnight or up to 24 hours. When you are ready to cook the grits remove the saucepan from the refrigerator. Take off the lid and set aside. Place the saucepan containing the grits on the stove.

Set heat to medium high and bring mixture to a boil. Stir the grits continuously so they won’t clump up. After the mixture boils reduce heat to low and cook for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally and add additional water as necessary if grits get too thick. Five minutes before you serve the grits add the butter. Stir until the butter melts and is completely incorporated into the grits.

Cajun Seasoning– makes about 1/3 cup
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon chipotle or ancho chili powder
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 teaspoon dry, ground mustard
1 and 1/2 teaspoons oregano leaves
1 and 1/2 teaspoons thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon kosher salt

Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl. Store in an airtight, glass spice jar.

Published in The News and Neighbor on March 9, 2016.

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