Fried Grits & Carving Paths....


Carving paths, moving mountains, parting oceans. It's these words that I play in the back of my mind constantly. A daily affirmation of excellence, in constant pursuit of defying expectations (stereotypes). With these words, images of people also spin like a proverbial Ferris wheel of fortitude. Showing me the way. Lena Richard was a pioneer of food tv far before Martha Stewart graced our televisions and encouraged us to become wizards in the kitchen. An African American woman who achieved great acclaim during the Jim Crow era in the South. In 1949 and 1950, the show aired twice weekly. Every Tuesday and Thursday, you could catch Lena (along with her assistant) teaching you how to cook your way through her book, New Orleans Cookbook, published by Houghton Mifflin in 1940. Broadcast via WDSU throughout New Orleans. Carving paths, moving mountains, parting oceans. Born in 1892, Lena's culinary career began as a domestic worker alongside her mother. It was here that her culinary skills radiated brightly and Lena was sent to the renowned Fannie Farmer Cooking School in Boston. Lena would return to New Orleans create a catering business, open a lunch house, write a cookbook, as well as go on to receive national recognition as Head Chef of the Travis House in Colonial Williamsburg. All this during a time of segregation, when the barrier was a wall made of steel rather than bricks. She carved a path....

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There are so many others, from by far the most famous, Edna Lewis and her exceptional contribution to the "farm to table" movement way before it was what it is today. Vertamae Smart- Grosvenor, whose "Travel Notes of a Geechee Girl" had me fascinated with the thought of travelling to Paris and opened my eyes to Gullah cuisine. And of course, Mildred Edna Cotton Council who would take $76 dollars and turn it into a culinary empire. Carving paths, moving mountains, parting oceans. Sometimes with just a hot bowl of grits...

Hot Grease Notes: Here is a recipe for grits. Super simple and hearty and can/should be eaten at any time of the day, not just breakfast. Soubise is like a bechamel sauce with onions. It also replaced my normal sausage-laden white gravy. Freshly ground black pepper gives the sauce a kick before the crunch of the grits. A meatless breakfast, brunch or whenever the mood hits you meal.

Fried Grits & Black Pepper Soubise Prep Time- 45 mins + 24 hours rest | Cook Time: 25-30mins | Yields 6 servings  Baking Pan | Wire Rack & Baking Sheet | Blender  Soubise sauce adapted from Sauces: Classical and Contemporary Sauce Making 

Ingredients: The Soubise: 3 tablespoons unsalted butter 1 medium onion, thinly sliced 1 ½ cup heavy whipping cream 2 tablespoons fresh ground black pepper

For the Grits: 2 cups of cooked grits ( I used stone ground) 1 egg, beaten ¾ cup milk 1 cup bread crumbs ½ to 1 cup of peanut oil for frying

Prepare the grits beforehand: While the grits are still warm pour them in a shallow baking dish. I used a 9x13 in baking pan. This gave me about an inch and ½ thickness in each grit cake. Once grits have cooled, cover pan with plastic wrap, place in the refrigerator and allow to firm up overnight.

The next day: For the Onion Soubise: In a medium saucepan, melt the butter until foaming, Add in onions and cook until softened. Stirring frequently until most of the liquid has evaporated. About 15 minutes. Stir in heavy cream and allow to simmer for about 5 minutes. Transfer mixture to a blender and blend until smooth. Add blended mixture back to the pot with the black pepper and reheat until smooth. For the fried grits: Cut out rounds using a 2in round biscuit cutter or you can cut them into squares using a knife. The grits should be firm and easily hold their shape due to the overnight time in the fridge. In a small bowl (large enough to dip your grit cake into) whisk together the egg and the milk. Add breadcrumbs to a separate plate. Now, take each grit cake and dip once into the egg wash to cover and then coat with the breadcrumbs, dredging off any excess crumbs. Place the prepared grit cake back on the wire rack lined baking sheet and repeat this process with the others. In a large skillet or heavy saucepan, heat the oil to 350 degrees. When the oil is ready, fry cakes in batches, turning on each side after 2-3 minutes. Fry until golden brown on each side. Remove from the grease and place back on the wire rack to drain off any excess grease. Once all the grit cakes are fried, add one or two ( or all of them) and drizzle with the onion soubise. Top with some crispy bacon and fresh chives, or a poached egg and crumbled goat cheese. Enjoy!