Grits don’t need me to wax poetic about them. People already do that. A lot. Chefs dress them up real pretty and escort them ‘round the dining room with heritage pigs and heirloom whatever-the-garden-trends and call them a revelation in a way I reckon makes seasoned Southern cooks roll their eyes and scoff a little. Haven’t they been saying so all along? Grits have history the furthest thing from fancy, but from then til haute cuisine, they sure do make a meal.
This basic pork chop recipe shows you how to cook reliably juicy, delicious pork chops in the oven. The secret is a very quick brine, just 30 minutes or so, which does the trick. Together with creamy grits livened up with chives, this is a meal to be proud of.
They may be the very best thing to pile onto your plate with a juicy pork chop. But you can serve these alongside Tuesday night’s grilled chicken, or Friday night’s roasted pork loin dinner party, or Sunday morning’s fritatta brunch. They’ll round out any menu.
They take a little time to cook, but hardly any fuss. I like to use bright, mellow green peppercorns to season the grits, but feel free to swap in black. If you can’t come by a perky bunch of fresh chives, mince the green ends of scallions instead (save the white parts for your chili or stir fry). But chives are the source of a pop of fresh oniony aroma and flavor here. They're void of the trademark sharpness of some of their allium family cousins, which actually does inspire me to write them an ode as an unsung hero of the culinary world. I’ll write it after I finish these grits.
Goat Cheese and Chive Grits
2 cups milk (low-fat or whole)
2 cups water
1 cup grits (you can use white hominy grits or yellow cornmeal polenta)
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground green peppercorns (about 20 grinds), or black pepper
1/2 cup crumbled soft goat cheese (about 5 ounces)
3 to 4 tablespoons minced fresh chives
Bring the milk and water to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. This will take a little while, 10 minutes or so if the milk is very cold to start. A watched pot might never boil, but still, keep one eye on it as the temperature makes its way upward. Once you start to see the surface of the liquid skitter a bit, as if it was trying to contain a thumping raucous party beneath it, don’t step away from the stove or that milk will froth up and boil over faster than you can run back to it while cursing “kiss my grits!”
Just after the boiling bubbles surface, whisk the grits into the liquid in a slow pour. Keep whisking as the gruel starts to thicken, about 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and cover the pot to trap in steam that will help soften the flecks of corn. Now lean in and listen for the bubbles. They should sound sluggish though consistent, but not rapidly overachieving.
Simmer this way for 40 minutes, stirring every 5 to 7 minutes to prevent a layer of grits from cooking on the bottom of the pot. After 15 minutes you might be fooled into thinking the thick, soft mound of grains is ready to eat, but it’s too soon. Let them be. The extra simmering and stirring cooks away raw starchy flavors and coaxes out the creamy smoothness for which grits are famous.
When they’re done, and no tough bits of grain are hiding in a steaming spoonful, stir in the cheese and chives (reserve a sprinkle of each to garnish the top if you like). Serve immediately. (If the other elements of the meal aren’t quite ready in line with the grits, you won’t ruin a thing if you let them sit covered for a while. Hold off on stirring in the cheese and chives until just before serving, and add a splash of water or milk if things start to stiffen or to reheat again if they cool down too much.)
Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to five days. Add a tablespoon or two of water per serving to reheat either in the microwave or in a small pot on the stovetop over low heat until warmed through.
Tara's new book Choosing Sides includes 130 fabulous recipes for side dishes to complement any entrée and complete meals for every occasion. → Find it at an independent bookshop, local library, or on Amazon: Choosing Sides: From Holidays to Every Day, 130 Delicious Recipes to Make the Meal
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(Image credits: Tara Mataraza Desmond; Emma Christensen; Andrews McMeel Publishing)