Get Your Grit On: Short Stack and SFA Grits Muffins Friday, Nov 8 2013 

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I love grits. I am a Grits Missionary. Folks tell me they don’t like grits and I tell them they haven’t had the right grits.

I like grits so much I wrote a little book about them that’s coming out in a few weeks. It’s a little collectible booklet by Short Stack Editions. Short Stack is a series of small-format cookbooks about inspiring ingredients, authored by America’s top culinary talents.  Each edition is a collectible, single-subject booklet packed with recipes that offer ingenious new ways to cook your favorite ingredients. They are  beautifully designed, hand-stitched, and retail for only $12. I am thrilled  to be a part of something so innovative in publishing and honored to be in such good company.

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To be able to write about grits is a dream come true. I can preach the gospel of grits beyond the Mason Dixon line! My grandmother fed my mother and her siblings grits for breakfast each morning when they were children. She would fill the plates to the brim. To this day, my mama has cheese grits every morning without fail.

I come from grits-loving people.

My short stack has over 20 recipes for grits of all kinds. I’ve got old-timey Southern recipes for grits including Cheese Grits Casserole, Nassau Grits, Garlic Cheese Grits, and my version of Shrimp and Grits. I’ve also got Italian polenta inspired recipes like Rabbit in Red Wine with Sage Grits and Baked Grits with Sausage Ragu. I share recipes for Caribbean-style savory grits with Fish Stew and Jamaican style sweet breakfast grits. I went crazy and mashed grits up with recipes from other cultures — I have a recipe for Chinese Congee made with grits not rice, and with the Grits and Pork Tamales below, in which the traditional corn product masa, is replaced with grits.

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Or, with these idlis, a traditional Indian steamed lentil bread I replaced the traditional accompanying grain, rice with grits. These are served with Spiced Okra and Tomatoes. Crazy, I tell you, I got to go crazy! Theses recipes may be out of the box, but every last one of them are absolutely delicious. It was very freeing to shake loose convention and just get gritty-with-it.

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My grits book explains the difference between hominy grits and stone-ground grits as well as the difference between polenta and grits. (There’s not much.) We include a source list of grits to try and chat a bit about the difference between yellow and white corn, as well as cormneal and grits. That little book is packed!

Then, in the midst of all of this, I was asked to cook the grab-and-go breakfast at the Southern Foodway’s Alliance Symposium. Director John T. Edge stipulated that whatever I served needed to be able to stand up to the excesses of the night before….I knew we needed starch and fat.

Typically, the grab and go is a breakfast sandwich or a biscuit. And, I might add it’s for about 400 people so make ahead was a must. I contemplated a few different dishes, but then I saw the light.

What could possibly be better than Cheese Grits Casserole? Who doesn’t like cheesy-baked goodness? I added a bit of sausage and bread to fill the boozy bellies. We made them in muffin cups so they would be grab and go and served heirloom apples on the side. Word on the street is that they were a huge success. It was such an honor to cook for this esteemed bunch, and I am glad everyone loved them so much.

Grits proverb 1: Grits are good and good for you.

Grits proverb 2: Grits will cure what ails you. 

I hope you enjoy this recipe for my SFA Cheese Grits Casserole Muffins. And, I hope you’ll consider buying my Short Stack Grits book, too.

It’s my Grits Missionary Bible.

Bon Appétit Y’all!
VA

PS Lots of BIG news coming – including a great, new gig on Comfort Food that launches in the new year. Details to come! Please keep up with my on Facebook and Twitter.

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Many thanks to John Currence and his staff for helping me get the job done and make 500 cheese grits casserole “muffins.” They did a great job and I couldn’t have done it without them.

SFA Cheese Grits Casserole “Muffins” 
Makes 8

Use extra stiff paper liners for these and understand they don’t actually come out of the paper like a baked muffin, and still need to be eaten with a spoon. I think they will be excellent for the holidays with guests and company. And, if you don’t want to make individual servings, you can always bake this in a buttered casserole dish. Simply increase the cooking time to 45 to 60 minutes.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups water
2 cups milk
1 cup coarse-ground grits
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
16 ounces country style breakfast pork or turkey sausage
2 slices challah or egg bread, cubed
1 1/2 cups grated sharp Cheddar cheese (about 6 ounces)
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 jalapeño chile, seeded and finely chopped
2 green onions, white and green parts, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a jumbo muffin tin with cups. In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the water and milk and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir in the grits and return to a boil. Season with salt and pepper. Decrease the heat to low, and simmer until creamy and thick, 45 to 60 minutes.

While the grits are cooking brown sausage in a skillet until cooked through, about 8-10 minutes, breaking up the meat with the edge of your spoon.

Remove the grits from the heat. Add the cheese and 2 tablespoons butter.Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper and stir to combine. Add ¾ of the sausage, the eggs, cayenne, jalapeño, and green onions and 
stir until well incorporated. Scoop a heaping 1/2 cup of the mixture into each cup.

Meanwhile combine the remaining sausage with the cubed bread. Top each cup with a couple of tablespoons of the bread-sausage mixture. Bake until bubbly and golden brown, about 25-30 minutes. Remove to a rack to cool slightly before serving.

Please be nice. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission is prohibited. Feel free to excerpt and link, just give credit where credit is due and send folks to my website, virginiawillis.com. Thanks so much.

Photo credits – Virginia Willis

Copyright © 2013 Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc.

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Paris Cookbook Fair: Pulled Pork with BBQ Sauce Saturday, Feb 23 2013 

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Paris Cookbook Fair 2013

Bonjour! Sending out a quick post from the Paris Cookbook Fair, Festival du Livre Culinaire from Le Carosel du Louvre. There are so many amazing, beautiful books from all over the world – France, the UK, South America, Israel, New Zealand — all over! I was thrilled to be asked to do a cooking demonstration. Of course, I knew I wanted to share my style of cooking, a blend of French and Southern — but with an extra special nod towards my Southern roots. So, I put it out on Twitter to ask folks what I should make…..

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Fried Chicken at the Louvre?

You will laugh at the reply from the Twitterverse!

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So, I didn’t. The last thing I want is an international incident over Fried Chicken. Although I am convinced that if the Mona Lisa could taste my fried chicken she’d have a full blown grin instead of her quirky little smile.

Southern Living saw the conversation and decided they had to write about it on their Daily South blog — “No, Virginia, You Can’t Fry in the Louvre.” Funny, right!?

Instead, I chose to make Pulled Pork Tenderloin with Georgia BBQ Sauce paired with Heirloom Stoneground Grits and Greens topped with Cole Slaw in a Mustard Vinaigrette. I actually brought My Southern Pantry® grits from home. I’m delighted to say that everyone loved it. It was a real blast.

I’m off to go see some beautiful food photography from the award-winning, international photographer Nancy Bundt. She’s absolutely phenomenal. I love her work. Later tonight, two people very important to me, Lisa Ekus and Anne Willan are receiving Gourmand Awards. More soon!

Bon Appétit Y’all!

VA

 

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Pulled Pork Tenderloin with Georgia Barbecue Sauce
Serves 4 to 6

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 small very finely chopped onion
2 1/2 cups ketchup
2 cups white vinegar
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cupDijon mustard
2 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
Juice of 2 lemons (about 1/4 cup)
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 (1-pound) pork tenderloin
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and simmer until soft and melted, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the ketchup, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, brown sugar, lemon juice, and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, and cook until flavors have smoothed and mellowed, about 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with heavy-duty aluminum foil.

Meanwhile, to prepare the pork, trim off the fat and silver skin: insert the tip of a sharp boning knife just under the silver skin about 1/2 inch from the edge of the meat where the silver skin begins. Keep the knife closer to the membrane than the meat, and pulling up slightly with the knife, slide the knife along the length of the meat to remove a strip of the membrane. Repeat until no silver skin remains. Season the pork with salt and pepper.

To sear the pork, in a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Sear the tenderloin until well browned on all sides, 5 to 7 minutes.

Remove from the heat and place lengthwise on the prepared baking sheet. Top with about 1 cup of the barbecue sauce and roll to fully coat. Fold the foil over the top of the meat and pinch the ends of the foil to seal well. Bake until very tender, 30 to 45 minutes.

Remove from the oven and transfer the pork to a large bowl. Discard the cooking juices remaining in the foil. Using 2 forks, shred the pork tenderloin into strips. Add barbecue sauce to taste, about 1 cup. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve on the split buns with the remaining 1/4 cup of sauce on the side.

Please be nice. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission is prohibited. Feel free to excerpt and link, just give credit where credit is due and send folks to my website, virginiawillis.com. Thanks so much.

Copyright © 2013 Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc.

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Easter Dinner: April “Country Living” on the Stands! Sunday, Mar 13 2011 

Wow. That’s all I have to say.

Well, that’s not true. I also have to say thank you. Lots and lots of thank yous.

Many thanks to Country Living Magazine and Monica Willis (no relation!) for asking me to be a part of this special issue. I am so grateful to Jona and the rest of my family for allowing their Easter dinner to be transformed into a photo shoot last year, thank you to my aunts and cousins for helping with the food, thank you to Gene, Kathy, and Meghan for opening their home, thanks to Gena Berry for her assistance, delicious thanks to Robert at Melissa’s Produce for helping with the ingredient sourcing, thank you to Heather, Harry, and John for making such beautiful photos, and lastly, but by far not the least, thanks to my Mama for all her love and support.

I told her it was TEN pages. She asked me where the rest of it was. I reminded her the magazine wasn’t titled Virginia Willis’s Country Living.

Here’s the full Country Living Easter Dinner article and here are the recipes.

I am so honored and thrilled to be the subject and also the author of the piece, a little written ramble about cherished childhood memories, my abhorrence of dotted Swiss, and sunrise service at Riverview Methodist church. It’s about how my family’s Easter menu has evolved and changed, but much of it remains true to the Easter Sunday dinners of my youth and the memory of my grandparents.

And this year? This spring I look forward to starting new traditions of family celebration and expanding the circle of sharing with people I love. Spring is after all, about shedding the old and celebrating newness and rebirth. It’s the perfect time for new lives and fresh starts.


Bon Appétit, Y’all!
VA


PS Click and read here, too, but help keep print alive my buying one at the newsstand. That is if Mama left you any. I think she’s gathered enough to wallpaper the spare room she’s so proud.

Easter Menu

Sliced Radishes with Horseradish Buttermilk Dip
Baked Fresh Ham with Herbes de Provence
Spiced Sweet Potatoes, Steamed Asparagus with Tangerines, Roasted Spring Vidalia Onions, Parmesan Grits with Morels
Buttermilk Angel Biscuits
Turbinado Shortcakes with Strawberries and Whipped Cream





Please be nice. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission is prohibited. Feel free to excerpt and link, just give credit where credit is due and send folks to my website, virginiawillis.com. Thanks so much.

My Southern Pantry™ Limited Holiday Release Friday, Oct 29 2010 

My Southern Pantry™ is a collection of wonderful ingredients I really like having in my kitchen and I thought you might, too. – Chef Virginia Willis, author of Bon Appétit, Y’all: Recipes and Stories from Three Generations of Southern Cooking

I am thrilled, nervous, excited, breathless – you name it – I am it – about the launch of my product line, My Southern Pantry™ available for a  limited holiday release on 11/1/10 through my website virginiawillis.com.

Someone asked me who was doing my “manufacturing” – well, it’s me and a group of folks that believe in what I am doing. I didn’t call up a company and have my name slapped on someone else’s stuff. I figured if I wanted to do this, I had to do it and I had to do it the way I wanted it to be.

Early on I decided I wanted “green” packaging, or as much as possible, and it’s expensive. I could only find one bag in the right size in the whole, entire United States that had a biodegradable window on an eco-friendly bag, but I had to have a window to show off the colors of the beautiful heirloom granite ground grits. My brownies are made with 2 kinds of semisweet Guittard chocolate – chips that melt away and chunks that retain their shape when cooked. The salt for the Pecan Smoked Salt is from my friend and colleague Mark Bitterman’s shop The Meadow in Portland (and soon to open in NYC). The spices for my French Quarter Spice Rub are from World Spice Merchants, my favorite spice store located in Seattle. I sought out ground Tabasco pepper, not the widely available ground cayenne pepper because I love the idea of using a pepper so strongly associated with Louisiana. I also use Café Du Monde coffee that reminds me of a very special morning with someone I care for very much and it makes me smile.

Everything I have chosen as an ingredient is top of the line and has a reason, a back story. I’ve made up my mind My Southern Pantry™ is going to be what I want – or it simply won’t be. This week I labeled each and every bag of grits and brownies myself. It’s honest and earnest – these are things I have in my kitchen that I love — and I hope you do, too.

So, I am starting with a limited holiday release. My Southern Pantry™ is currently available through my website and in Atlanta at The Cook’s Warehouse. We’re starting national expansion in January.

To order, please visit www.virginiawillis.com

I thank you for remembering these items as you make your holiday gift giving decisions.

Many, many thanks for your consideration and support.

Bon Appétit, Y’all!
VA


Heirloom Grits

From the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains comes an heirloom corn over 100 years old. Seeds passed family to family, this corn grows 3-colors to a stalk, creating an unusual and colorful meal. Beauty aside, these are quite simply some of the best grits I have ever had. Ground on granite millstone these grits are batch numbered and dated with a “ground on” date. I tasted different grits for almost 2 years before I decided these were the ones. (20 ounces $9.95 + S&H)

Pecan Brownies Mise en Place

Everything you need to make the best brownies ever, everything, but the butter and the eggs. ‘Cause if all you need to do is add oil and water, those aren’t the best brownies ever. Forget additives and anti-caking ingredients. This “mise en place”, French technique terminology for “putting in place” or what you need to make the recipe consists of rich semisweet Guittard chocolate, flour, pure cane sugar, cocoa powder, pecans from my friends at Pearson Farms, baking soda, and fine sea salt. It’s just like you came over and we made them together, except you pour your own glass of milk. (21 ounces $9.95 + S&H)

Pecan Smoked Salt

Large flake sea salt from Cyprus cold-smoked for over  8 hours over  South Georgia pecan wood. Open the tin and smell a campfire. Sweet, nutty, and mildly bitter, it is an excellent addition to your southern pantry. Use as a finishing salt with vegetables for a smoky bacon flavor without the fat. (1.5 ounces $7.95 + S&H)

French Quarter Spice Rub and Seasoning Blend

Heady with the aromas of the French quarter – dark roast coffee with chicory, the thick scent of brown cane sugar, spicy Tabasco chile powder, and a specially crafted Quatre Epice, a warm blend of peppercorns, ground cloves, nutmeg, and ground ginger, this spice rub and seasoning blend calls to the complex flavors of New Orleans. More complex than a simple Creole seasoning it’s excellent on steaks, pork, lamb, chicken, bringing a different flavor to each. It’s also wonderful on rich fish like salmon. (1.5 ounces $6.95 + S&H)


Smoky Collard Greens
Serves 4 to 6

You simply won’t believe your mouth when you taste these greens. They smell like bacon, and taste a lot like bacon, but there is no bacon. The flavor comes from smoked salt. In its pure state, salt is a simple chemical compound, sodium chloride. There are many types of salt from all over the world that contain different elements and minerals. But things get really “fired up” when salt is smoked. The smoke permeates the salt crystals, infusing them with a rich, distinct smoked taste, and transforms their color from a light toasty brown to deep amber. This ingredient adds a unique flavor to a wide range of dishes, including beef, pork, duck, chicken, and fish. I use it most often in Southern-style vegetables, to replicate that smoky taste evocative of hog jowl or bacon without the fat, and it is great for vegetarians.

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 onion, preferably Vidalia, chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 medium bunch collard greens (about 11/2 pounds), cleaned tough stems
removed and discarded, and leaves very thinly sliced in chiffonade
4 cups water
1 tablespoon Pecan Smoked Salt
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
Hot Pepper Vinegar, for accompaniment

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until soft and translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and
cook until fragrant, 45 to 60 seconds. Add the greens, water, smoked salt, and apple cider vinegar. Season the mixture with pepper. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until the greens are tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Taste and adjust for seasoning with smoked salt and pepper. Serve immediately with the hot pepper vinegar on the side.

Please be nice. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission is prohibited. Feel free to excerpt and link, just give credit where credit is due and send folks to my website, www.virginiawillis.com. Thanks so much.

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