This week, quite unintentionally (as in, I didn’t plan a new recipe cooking series), Muffin’s family tried out two new recipes. Well…we tried out one-and-a-half, actually.
As you can tell from Monday, we have A LOT of pulled pork in our house. As delicious as sammies with coleslaw and soft buns (toasted) are…the delightful novelty fades after 10 or so. So, in an effort to find a way to use more of the leftovers up, I came across a recipe for…Pot Roast and Cheesy Ranch Grits from A Sprinkle of This and That.
I have a huge confession that challenges my southern-ness to the core. When I was younger (until I was a grown adult and teaching), I could not stand grits. Could. Not. Stand. As in, I would gag around a throatful. My earliest memory of grits is stopping at a restaurant between New Orleans and Shreveport, Louisiana (where my grandmother lived). I must have been two or three. My mom ordered grits (probably against her better judgment and with the caveat “You’re not going to like them.”) for me.
(I’m sorry for those of you who are eating while reading this in advance.) I upchucked my first (and only) mouthful of the plate.
In general, I am not a picky eater (other than chili mac, raw potatoes, hard boiled eggs by themselves, kale jerky, and hockey puck slow cooker orange chicken). Most picky-ness that I qualify for as a picky eater come under the category of texture, rather than taste. Broccoli florets. (I love the stalks.) Grits.
Now, I love cornbread. Adore it.
But plain, instant, just barely boiled long enough grits? I’m sitting at my laptop shuddering even now.
When I first became a teacher, my principal cooked for the teachers for Teacher Appreciation Week. (I won’t step on my soapbox now about Teacher Appreciation Week; I’ll save that for a particularly scathing Thoughtful Thursday post.) To me, that was about the most thoughtful thing possible…a gift of food…prepared by one’s own (or loved one’s) hands. (After all…don’t take away my Southern card just yet. Love=food and food=love.)
One year, he made grits. Because of my aforementioned gag-worthy (and gagging) aversion to grits, is it any wonder that I reached my mid-twenties full of trepidation about trying the dish? On one hand, I hated (and feared) grits. I had the phobia covered on both ends. On the other, my principal was a fabulous cook. And I hated to offend him by not eating it.
I tasted…a soft creamy (not gritty) heaven, the grits swelled to nearly gelatinous bubbles of yummy-ness. I may have cried in pleasure…or blacked out. However, I do remember hounding him for information about how he prepared the grits.
He baked them, probably more of a braise, thus softening up the (previously gritty) bits of ground grain.
Yup. I was in luuuuuuv.
I began trying shrimp and grits and grits and grillades whenever I had the chance at restaurants. I experimented with cheesy grits, devoured grits doused in Southern gravy, and dreamed of other ways to prepare them.
Josh, newly planted in the South, does not share my newfound lust for grits. Considering it took my 25 plus years to be okay with grits, I find that perfectly understandable.
So, it was with some trepidation that I added my variation of the pot roast with cheesy ranch grits recipe to the menu. Cheesy ranch grits topped ever-so-flagrantly with root beer pulled pork.
Yup. I totally went there.
The grits…especially if you let them sit at low for 20 or so minutes after they finish cooking…achieve that same gelatinous texture (swelled with liquidy chicken broth almost to the popping point) as those long-ago oven-baked grits. The consistency is almost that of polenta…at the very least it is a very scoopable (and capable of holding its shape) grits dish. No creamy ooze here.
I’m only going to include the recipe for the cheesy ranch grits below. If you wish to see the recipe in its entirety, please click the link above.
Cheesy Ranch Grits
(adapted from A Sprinkle of This and That)
3 cups chicken broth (I ended up using two cans…a bit more than three cups because the mixture became VERY thick)
1 1/2 cups quick (white) grits
1 packet ranch dressing mix (If you remember the green potato catastrophe, trust me when I tell you this: Buy Hidden Valley brand to avoid green grits.)
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Boil three cups of chicken broth in a large pot. Slowly stir in the grits. Continue stirring, fairly regularly, for five minutes, over medium-low heat. At five minutes, the mixture will be VERY thick. Add a bit more broth until you are able to stir the mixture comfortably. Stir in the ranch packet and the cheese. Continue stirring until cheese is melted. Reduce heat to low. Allow to sit for 20 or so minutes on low to allow the broth to swell the grits until soft. Tasting the grits immediately after the cheese melts and tasting them 20 minutes later is a completely different mouth feel experience.
(I found this out by accident because the grits came together so quickly, and Josh was a bit late coming home because he kindly stopped by Brookshire’s for me.)
When ready to eat, spoon (and spread) the desired amount of grits on the plate. Top with slow cooked meat and juices (in my case pulled pork).
Enjoy converting the skeptics!
One thing I’m looking forward to is changing the seasoning and cheese. I have a feeling that Parmesan with a tweak of herbs would turn this into a great mock risotto.
The second recipe was one that seemed very classy, very unlike anything I would make…Lemon Cream Pasta with Chicken from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe. The recipe was a planned leftover use of her Lemon Garlic Chicken, so of course, I had to (sort of) make it, too.
Let’s go into the major changes I made first. Instead of marinating and grilling the chicken (forgot to put it in the marinade and Josh was working–so grilling was out), I poached the chicken in the marinating liquid plus a bit more water. Then, I used Penne Rigate rather than rigatoni. Penne was nineteen cents a package at Kroger, so penne won. And, since I used a package of penne, I had to decrease the amounts of the ingredients that the pasta boiled in (because I purchased a 12 ounce bag).
So, here’s what I did:
Lemon Cream Pasta with Chicken
(Adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe)
juice of one large lemon
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper, freshly ground
1 teaspoon dried oregano
6 cups water
Combine the poaching liquid ingredients in a pot (large enough for the poaching liquid and a pound of chicken breasts, cut into manageable strips). Bring the poaching liquid to a boil, add chicken, stir, and reduce heat to medium-low. Check for doneness periodically. Mine finished in 20 minutes. Remove the chicken from the poaching liquid and allow to cool before shredding into bite-sized pieces.
While waiting for the chicken to cool, prepare the pasta.
4 1/2 cups chicken broth (or 4 1/2 cups water and 3 chicken bouillon cubes, crushed)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
12 ounces penne rigate
6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
While waiting for the chicken to cool, bring the broth, garlic powder, and black pepper to a boil in a Dutch oven. When in boils, stir in the pasta and lemon juice. Cook over medium heat, stirring often to prevent sticking, until all liquid is absorbed (15-25 minutes).
Shredded chicken (see above recipe)
1 1/2 cups half-n-half or whole milk
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Stir remaining ingredients into the cooked pasta. Cook, stirring often over low heat, for five minutes or until the butter melts. Remove from heat and let stand five minutes before stirring.
We served this with asparagus roasted in a 375 degree oven (tossed with olive oil, sprinkled with salt, fresh ground black pepper, and lemon zest, and drizzled with a bit of red wine vinegar) 15 minutes or so until slightly wilted and softened.
The third recipe, also from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe, is Korean Beef and Rice. This one was an all-around winner. My mom and a coworker asked for the recipe. Muffin LOVED this one. I loved this one; it reminded me of some boiled chicken wings (trust me, they were good) that my great-aunt Gene (my mom’s mom’s sister) used to make with sherry and ginger.
What I like about this one is the ease of preparation. I prepped it on Monday ostensibly for Wednesday but was able to talk myself in to eating it on Tuesday (when I couldn’t find the grits or ranch dressing powder I had purchased). Muffin and I tasted it, and I had to use all the willpower I had not to inhale the entire pan. The preparation took, at most, 15 minutes, as long as it takes to brown meat, whisk together and pour in a sauce, and simmer it for a bit.
This one is definitely a repeater.
I didn’t change the recipe up too much, only to add in a bit of sesame seeds as a garnish on top with the green onions. I sliced my green onion fairly thinly. (I do apologize for the incompleteness of my picture. I had already taken a few bites when I remembered to snap a shot.)
Here’s what I did:
1 1/2 pounds ground meat (I used 12 ounces ground turkey and 12 ounces ground beef. I am looking forward to seeing what ground pork does to the mix.)
3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup dark brown sugar (It’s what I had)
1/2 cup soy sauce (I used full-sodium and compensated accordingly)
1/4 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon sesame oil (an absolute love of mine!)
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger (The author also recommends 1 teaspoon fresh minced ginger.)
3 green onions, thinly sliced (white and green parts)
hot cooked rice
Brown the meat with the garlic in a large skillet over medium heat. Mush and mash up the meat so it is in fine crumbles. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Drain excess grease. Whisk together the remaining ingredients. Stir the sauce into the meat mixture. Simmer over medium heat for five minutes, stirring to fully “sauce” the meat.
Serve over hot cooked rice, garnished on top with green onion slices and sesame seeds.
This recipe (and the other two) were Muffin Approved.
What new recipes did you try successfully this week?