Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Grits. They're Not Just For Breakfast Anymore.

(Long....a recipe of sorts is at the end)

The name just sounds gross, I know. Maybe you've even had a bad experience with grits. But I'm not talking about a watery quicksand concoction with a joyless melting pat of butter in the middle of it. No instant or quick grits for me.

I'm talking about REAL grits. Coarse, stone ground grits like the ones from Whites Mill (the brand we use). This is an actual shot of their mill in Virginia. Every town and village in the south used to have a grist mill like Whites where you would grind your corn into flour and grits. The miller took his cut of your product as his pay (jeez....there's always a middleman, even back in the day!).

Stone ground grits are better, in my opinion, for two reasons. First, they are less processed and retain more nutrients. Second, they create a totally different end result than the quick or instant grits. They have more texture, substance, and actually taste like something!

But even if you like grits.....grits for dinner?
Sure! Grits are a staple at fish fry events, but I never really considered them a "side dish" outside of breakfast until I ate the absolute best dish I ever had in my life a few years ago, Shrimp and Grits at Puleo's Grille in Knoxville (my absolute most favorite restaurant ever!). The grits were like two mounds of mashed potatoes covered in shrimp, sausage, peppers, and onions in a tasso gravy, nothing like any grits I'd ever had, in texture or flavor. The grits were the base of the entire dish. If it weren't for the grits, it would be an okay soup or something.In attempting to clone Steve Puleo's recipe at home, my experimentation failed until I found stone ground grits at the Mast General Store. Then it was awesome!

So tonight I was trying to decide how to prepare a pork tenderloin and was all over the place with ideas when Alexis said, "You should do something with those grits". Here's what I came up with. I'll tweak it a bit but it was pretty great on a first run.

Fire Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Asiago Cheese Grits
Standard recent photo disclaimer: Nikon is in the shop from being dropped and until I get it back, I've thrown the towel in on getting decent food photos with this point and shoot.
1 cup stone ground coarse grits (seriously, don't bother with trying to substitute)
3 cup water
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 t kosher salt
2 T butter
1/2 cup asiago cheese, shredded

1 lb pork tenderloin
1 t kosher salt
1 t lemon pepper
1 t tarragon ground
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup butter (one stick)
1/2 cup all porpoise flour
salt, pepper, red pepper to taste

The grits & meat cook at the same time, but for simplicity I'm breaking them into two sections.

Asiago Cheese Grits
Start a covered pot with grits, water, broth, & salt at the same time you start heating the pan to sear the meat (see next paragraph). Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer 25 minutes, stirring often (think risotto). Add cheese and butter, cook for 5 more minutes. You don't want this runny, you want it thick where it will hold it's shape when scooped onto a plate. But if you think it's drying out too much while cooking, you can add a bit (tablespoons) of broth or water.

Fire Roasted Pork Tenderloin
Rub the pork with the salt, lemon pepper, and tarragon.

Set up your grill for high heat (350f) indirect cooking. Specifically for the Big Green Egg, I had it running 350f with the plate setter placed legs up. What you DON'T want to do is to get the lump charcoal red hot, put the wood chips on, and then absent mindedly shut the bottom air vent (instead of just closing it a bit). Yep. Hot coals + wood - airflow = SMOLDER. Toss a pop up canopy in for even more fun. Fortunately, no meat was harmed, nothing had gone on yet. I just thought these funny out takes made up for the lack of quality photos! Hey, everyone screws up now and then!

Heat a skillet over medium high heat. Add some oil (just enough to coat the pan) and sear the tenderloin on all 4 sides for about 60-90 seconds a side. Remove pan from heat and put the tenderloin on the covered grill. Cook until meat hits 145-150f internal temp. Remove and wrap in foil to rest.

Reheat skillet. Deglaze the pan with a few splashes of chicken broth. Add butter to melt. Whisk in flour. Whisk continuously until the butter/flour forms a dark roux. You want it darker than you think, because adding the rest of the broth lightens it up. Add the rest of the broth and whisk gravy to desired consistency.

Slice tenderloin very thin.

Place a heaping scoop of grits on a plate. Layer slices of pork around the grits. Ladel gravy over it and top with parsley.

For a first time, pulled it out of a hat recipe, our family of four rated it "four empty plates plus four sets of seconds". I'll be working on this one and perfect it but it's pretty damn good already.

For printable recipe click here:
Fire Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Asiago Cheese Grits