Southern cooks face all of the same challenges as everyone else in getting breakfast on the table, but that doesn't mean we can't take advantage of some of the mystic appeal that surrounds this regional cuisine to make our effort more delicious (and even enjoyable). Southern cuisine's esteemed reputation is due, in part, to thrifty cooks working with that they have — a fact that still holds true when it comes to the first meal of the day.
So when we talk about eating breakfast like a Southerner, it may involve biscuits, but it certainly includes tips and strategies, like making the most of dinner leftovers for breakfast. So with that in mind, here's a little ingenuity to go with those grits.
1. Make a big ol' pot of grits.
Basically a corn porridge, grits share similarities to polenta and even oatmeal. They are nutritionally dense, filling, and can be easy to prepare. Try these two tips to make the most of them.
- Make your grits overnight in the slow cooker: They get super creamy and luxe and you can wake up to a fresh batch. Top with butter and hot sauce.
- Reheat your dinner grits: Much like polenta, cooked grits cool into a thick, sliceable mass, so you can fry them in a little bacon fat and use them as a vehicle for avocado, fried eggs, or even a drizzle of honey.
2. Eat your greens at breakfast.
Collards are the superstar of Southern greens, but we actually grow and enjoy hearty greens of all types. Mustard greens, chard, and even kale are popular breakfast fare, as many Southerners believe greens to be the wealth of health.
- Cook your greens in advance: Braised greens get more tender and flavorful as they sit. So cook a batch on Sunday for reheating through out the week. You can go the traditional stovetop route or you can make them in the slow cooker.
- Pair your greens with a poached or fried egg: The combination of runny egg yolk and potlikker (the Southern colloquialism for the green's cooking liquids) is pure pleasure. Don't miss out on it on account of it being breakfast!
3. Bake some biscuits (thanks to the fridge!).
Believe it or not, fresh biscuits are a weekday staple in our house. We eat them warm slathered with butter or as a sandwich stuffed with thinly sliced country ham.
Here's the secret: You can measure, mix, and even stamp out your biscuits the night before and stick them in the fridge. In the morning, stick the cold biscuits right in the preheated oven. They don't rise quite as well as those mixed and baked the same day, but you're still a hero because you made biscuits for breakfast!
Get my tried-and-true biscuit recipe: How To Make Southern Biscuits
4. Top those biscuits with gravy.
Gravy is one of my husband's top five favorite indulgences, and for us this is strictly weekend fare. Sausage or sawmill gravy is what most typically think of when they imagine biscuits and gravy, but you can even pull off a successful vegetarian version.
5. Swap your maple syrup for sorghum.
Southerners enjoy their fair share of pancakes, waffles, and French toast, but some top these with sorghum syrup rather than maple syrup. The stalks of sorghum plants (whose berries are hulled for cooking) is pressed, releasing its syrup, which is then cooked down much like its maple counterpart. Sorghum can be as light as honey or as dark as molasses depending on its processing. It has a rich, honey-like flavor and nutty aroma.
Read more: Ancient Grain in Modern Times: Sorghum
6. Enjoy a peach or two.
Georgia is known as the peach state, but South Carolina and Tennessee both fight Georgia for the title of sweetest peach. Southerners appreciate the peach's seasonality so much that many home cooks can and preserve them to eat all year long.
Canned peaches are an incredible topping for oatmeal and yogurt. If you can't get home-canned peaches, go for frozen ones and roast them in the oven before serving over yogurt or biscuits (or both!).
Start your morning with something sweet:
7. Drink coffee, not sweet tea.
Southerners have a reputation for slowly sipping sweet tea all day long, but truthfully most of us start the day with a cup of coffee. Chicory coffee is a staple in New Orleans; brewed from the roots of the endive plant, it's probably most notably served with beignets at Cafe Du Monde. Brighter and more acidic than regular coffee, chicory may be an acquired taste.
8. Cook your eggs in cast iron.
Truthfully, I can't say definitively why cast iron cooking is so intrinsically linked with Southern cooking, but I'm not the only cook who loves my well-seasoned skillet for frying eggs as much as I love it for frying bacon. The secret to perfectly cooked eggs in cast iron? Preheat the pan.
9. Trade plain taters for sweet potatoes.
Sweet potatoes grow heartily in the South, including in many backyard gardens. Here's the thing I love about sweet potatoes: Almost anything a white potato can do, the sweet potato does better (see home fries, hash browns, and even hash), but it can also be baked and enjoyed as a sweet breakfast topped with pecans, butter, and some syrup.
Keep them on hand at all times: How To Make Baked Sweet Potatoes
10. Cornbread and buttermilk — that's it.
Most native Southerners would argue that biscuits are for breakfast and cornbread is strictly dinner fodder, with one exception: Leftover cornbread crumbled and soaked in fresh buttermilk is a Southern delicacy beloved by many. If that sounds odd, consider toasting some leftover cornbread and crumble it as a topping for yogurt and then you'll understand.
My favorite cornbread for breakfasts: How To Make Skillet Cornbread