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Highlands Baked Grits

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

This signature appetizer is simple southern with a little finesse. The grits are baked in individual ramekins, then served with a buttery Parmesan sauce, garnished with wild mushrooms and strips of country ham. This is pure comfort, warm and homey with a soothing contrast in textures. Organic stone-ground corn grits are essential—don’t even think about trying this with “quick” grits!

NotesThe grits can be baked up to 1 hour ahead and set aside at room temperature. Reheat on a baking sheet in a 400°F oven until warmed through.

To Drink: Châteauneuf-du-Pape blanc, Domaine du Vieux Telégraphe

Serves8 to 10 as an appetizer

CostModerate

Total Timeunder 2 hours

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Kid FriendlyYes

OccasionFormal Dinner Party

Recipe Courseappetizer

Dietary Considerationgluten-free, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free

Mealbrunch, dinner

Moodblue

Taste and Texturebuttery, creamy, herby, meaty, rich, savory, smoky, umami

Ingredients

  • 4 cups water, preferably spring water
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 cup yellow stone-ground grits, preferably organic
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Freshly ground white pepper to taste
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • ½ cup white wine
  • ¼ cup sherry vinegar, or to taste
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 dried red chile pepper
  • 1 to 2 ounces country ham (trimmings, end pieces, and scraps from the shank are fine)
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • Juice of ½ lemon, or to taste
  • Hot sauce, such as Tabasco or Cholula
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 thin slices country ham or prosciutto, cut into julienne strips
  • ½ cup chanterelle, morel, shiitake, or oyster mushrooms cut into 1- to 2-inch pieces
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • Thyme leaves for garnish

Instructions

  1. For the grits:

  2. In a large heavy saucepan, bring the water and salt to a boil. Stirring with a wooden spoon, add the grits in a slow, steady stream and cook, stirring frequently, until thickened and tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Remove from the heat and add the butter, Parmigiano, and white pepper, stirring until combined. Add the egg and stir to incorporate.

  3. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375°F. Butter eight to ten 4- to 6-ounce ramekins.

  4. Divide the grits among the buttered ramekins, place in a baking pan, and add enough hot water to the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for about 20 minutes longer, or until the tops are crusty and beginning to brown.

  5. For the sauce:

  6. In a medium sauté pan, combine the wine, vinegar, shallots, bay leaf, chile pepper, and ham and bring to a boil. Cook until only 1 tablespoon of liquid remains. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the crèam. Whisk in the butter bit by bit, adding each new piece as the previous one is incorporated.

  7. Strain the sauce into a saucepan. Add the Parmigiano and season with salt and pepper, lemon juice, and hot sauce to taste. Keep warm.

  8. For the garnish:

  9. Heat the oil in a small sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the julienned ham, mushrooms, and shallot and cook until the mushrooms are barely tender, 3 to 4 minutes.

  10. Unmold the grits onto serving plates and turn browned side up. Ladle a little sauce around the grits and top with the mushrooms and ham. Garnish with thyme leaves.

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