I spent the better part of my formative years living in Indiana, and although we lived a mere two miles from Kentucky, crossing the bridge over the Ohio River felt like going into a different world. We opted for you guys over y'all, sweet tea was not ubiquitous, we had a take it or leave it attitude with college football, and we never ate grits. Never. It was not until I moved to Memphis in 2001 that I actually ever laid eyes on grits. I was not a fan at first, but now as an 11-year born-again Southerner, I have embraced y'all, sweet tea, SEC football, and of course, grits. With butter. And Cheese, please.
Grits are an amazingly versatile food. They are a great substitute when you get tired of the rice vs. noodle debate. They are easy to prepare and can be made healthily (i.e., no butter, no cheese).
Granted, I just use corn meal to make my grits, and I'm sure there is some epicurean law admonishing me for this practice, but to me, ground up corny mush = grits. And, grits just seem so much more en vogue than polenta.
Now, on to the go-to recipe,
Sausage Ragout with Grits
1 lb Italian sausage (You can use turkey or pork; if you buy links, remove the meat from the casings.)
1 green pepper, sliced
1/2 onion, sliced
1 jar marinara sauce
1 cup corn meal
Cook the sausage in a skillet on medium heat until it's cooked through. Remove from heat and let drain. Wipe out the pan, add a bit of olive oil, and add the onions. Saute for a few minutes, then add the green peppers. Cook for about 5-7 minutes, then add the sausage and marinara sauce back to the pan. Stir until everything is coated and combined well. Keep it on low as you make the grits.
Boil three cups of water, and add 1 teaspoon salt. Slowly add in the corn meal, stirring well as you add. Cook for a few minutes, stirring often until they get to a consistency you like. You will probably want to add more water.
Serve the ragout mixture over a spoonful of the grits. Feel free to top with parmesan cheese and basil. (I did not do this. As this recipe serves as a go-to dinner, I went to it at 8PM last night, and my grocery shopping elf forgot the cheese and basil. Why, I declare!) Anyway, whatever you top it with, enjoy!
*Note, in my picture, I made the grits the night before. I refrigerated the mixture in an even layer overnight, then cut it into slices and sauteed the slices in olive oil before serving.