The 2007 Saveur 100 issue is out, and among the usual roster of markets, restaurants, and weird touchy-feely things like #45 (“relaxing while cooking”) is a recipe I had to try immediately.
It’s #47, it’s called Nassau grits, and it’s a specialty of Pensacola, Florida. If you’re a fan of smoked pork products and stone-ground grits, you’ll want to try these right away. I served them along with fried catfish and a nice pot of greens, but I would have been perfectly happy with just the grits. (Not so Iris, who eyed the Nassau grits warily and declared, “I love catfish. Why is it called catfish?”)
This recipe is so good, it almost makes you want to forgive the Florida Panhandle for the 2000 election.
Adapted from Saveur, February 2007
8 ounces thick-cut bacon, diced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
6 ounces smoked ham, diced (I used a cheap supermarket ham that was not smoky enough)
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 clove garlic, minced
3/4 cup stone-ground white grits
Salt and pepper
Start making the grits. Bring 3 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Place the grits in a large bowl and run water over them to cover by at least an inch. Stir well and let sit one minute. Using a small strainer, skim off any hulls and other detritus floating on the surface. Drain. Add the grits to the boiling water and stir well. Return to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to low. I use Anson Mills grits, which take up to two hours to cook.
Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate and pour off all but 3 tablespoons fat. Add the onion and pepper to the pan and cook until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the ham and continue cooking until the pepper is soft, about 10 more minutes. Add the tomato and garlic and simmer until the mixture is pretty dry. The original recipe suggests simmering over medium-low and simmering for 30 minutes; I was running late so I boiled it over medium-high for less than 10 minutes. I doubt it makes any difference.
Stir the vegetable and ham mixture and most of the bacon into the grits and season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with remaining bacon. I found that the grits were a lot better warm than hot, so don’t worry about serving them instantly.