This recipe is featured in our April 2017 Food + Entertaining article, Season’s Bounty. This signature appetizer is simple Southern with a little finesse. The grits are baked in individual ramekins, then served with a buttery Parmesan sauce, garnished with wild mushrooms and strips of country ham. This is pure comfort, warm and homey with a soothing contrast in textures.
Highlands Baked GritsCourse: Appetizers, Brunch
Organic stone-ground corn grits are essential—don’t even think about trying this with “quick” grits! The grits can be baked up to 1 hour ahead and set aside at room temperature. Reheat on a baking sheet in a 400 degree oven until warmed through.
- For the grits:
4 cups water, preferably spring water
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup yellow stone-ground grits, preferably organic
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1⁄4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Freshly ground white pepper, to taste
1 large egg, beaten
- For the sauce:
1⁄2 cup white wine
1⁄4 cup sherry vinegar, or to taste
2 shallots, minced
1 bay leaf
1 dried red chile pepper
1 to 2 ounces country ham (trimmings, end pieces, and scraps from the shank are fine)
1 tablespoon heavy cream
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
2 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper
Juice of 1⁄2 lemon, or to taste
Hot sauce, such as Tabasco or Cholula
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 thin slices country ham or prosciutto, cut into julienne strips
1⁄2 cup chanterelle, morel, shiitake or oyster mushrooms (cut into 1- to 2-inch pieces)
1 shallot, minced
Thyme leaves for garnish
- In a large heavy saucepan, bring the water and salt to a boil. Stirring with a wooden spoon, add the grits in a slow, steady stream and cook, stirring frequently, until thickened and tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Remove from the heat and add the butter, Parmigiano and white pepper, stirring until combined. Add the egg and stir to incorporate.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter 8 to 10 ramekins (4- to 6-ounce). Divide the grits among the buttered ramekins, place in a baking pan, and add enough hot water to the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for about 20 minutes longer, or until the tops are crusty and beginning to brown.
- Meanwhile, in a medium sauté pan, combine the wine, vinegar, shallots, bay leaf, chile pepper and ham. Bring to a boil. Cook until only 1 tablespoon of liquid remains. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the cream. Whisk in the butter bit by bit, adding each new piece as the previous one is incorporated. Strain the sauce into a saucepan. Add the Parmigiano and season with salt and pepper, lemon juice and hot sauce to taste. Keep warm.
- Heat the oil in a small sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the julienned ham, mushrooms and shallots and cook until the mushrooms are barely tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Unmold the grits onto serving plates and turn browned side up. Ladle a little sauce around the grits and top with the mushrooms and ham. Garnish with thyme leaves.
- Chef Frank Stitt, excerpted from Frank Stitt’s Southern Table: Recipes and Gracious Traditions from Highlands Bar and Grill