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  • Writer's pictureTommy Centola

Grits work for more than breakfast

Grits are a staple on a Southern breakfast table. No matter where or when we eat a breakfast meal, my wife will insist that it includes her favorite morning dish. These days, however, grits are being used for more than just starting the day.

Grits as a dinner item gained popularity with Shrimp and Grits. Another great dish is Grillades and Grits. Since I have shared these dishes before, I wanted to share two completely different dishes. First is a cousin to Shrimp and Grits: Crawfish Smothered Grits. The second is Jambalaya Grits. This one mimics the flavors of the dish you are all familiar with. Go grab your grits and Let’s head to the kitchen!

Crawfish Smothered Grits

This dish is a take on Shrimp and Grits. It’s creamier then the traditional recipe. The key to this dish are the crawfish. Make sure that they are domestic mudbugs. There is no flavor in the imported farm-raised product.

1 pound peeled crawfish tails

Creole seasoning

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup chopped onions

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

2 cups beef stock

3 cups half and half

1 1/2 cups quick-cooking white grits

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a mixing bowl, toss the crawfish tails with Creole seasoning. In a 3-quart saucepan, over medium heat, add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the onions. Season the onions with salt and cayenne. Sauté for 2 minutes, or until the onions are soft. Add the crawfish and garlic. Continue to cook for 2 minutes. Add the stock and half and half to the pan. Season with salt and cayenne. Bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 2 minutes. Add the grits and stir constantly until they are very tender, about 10 minutes. Add the cheese and stir to mix and melt it. Serve warm.

Jambalaya Grits

Here’s an interesting take on a classic jambalaya. The grits take on a new life with the addition of these traditional Creole/Cajun flavors. How can you go wrong with a dish that starts with the Holy Trinity of onions, celery and bell pepper?

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup chopped yellow onions

1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper

1/2 cup chopped celery

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon Creole seasoning

1/4 pound andouille or other smoked sausage, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices

1/4 pound boiled ham, cut into small dice

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

1/2 cut peeled, seeded, and chopped vine-ripened tomato

6 cups milk

2 cups quick-cooking white grits

1/2 pound medium-sized shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/4 cup chopped green onions (green part only)

1/4 pound sharp white Cheddar cheese, grated

In a large, heavy pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions, bell pepper, celery, salt, black pepper, and Creole seasoning. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables are soft and lightly golden, about 4 minutes. Add the sausage and ham and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes, Add the garlic and tomato and cook for 2 minutes. Add the milk and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the grits. Stir for 2 minutes, then add the shrimp. Cook, stirring, until the grits are tender and creamy, 7 to 8 minutes. Stir in the green onions, then add the cheese and stir until it is completely melted, about 30 seconds.

With the blank canvas that grits are, you are only as limited as your imagination for dishes. Whether they are stone-ground or instant, they make a great dinner meal. Don’t just take my word for it. Try grits for dinner one night. You’ll be glad you did!

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