Even though my husband comes from a decidedly Southern family (as my father-in-law will remind us if we’re anywhere in sight of a slice of cornbread,) until recently, we never really got friendly with grits. To me, they were just as bland and gritty as Cream of Wheat (don’t get me started) and the fact that they’re intended to be savory instead of sweet did nothing to improve my opinion of them.
Then, suddenly, we discovered polenta and it became a staple in our home. Little did I know that grits – unless you’re talking about hominy grits – are basically the same as polenta, just made with milk and flavored with cheese, and are delicious if seasoned properly. For reference, in either case the ratio of cornmeal to liquid is 1:4. Easy-peasy.
Piperade is a fancy way of saying “pepper sauce,” it’s a traditional Basque French stew of onions, peppers and tomatoes (though it can’t be too traditional – both peppers and tomatoes are new world foods, not widely known in Europe until the 17th Century.) Since I, personally, don’t like the acidity of tomatoes with eggs, my piperade is simply seasoned onions, peppers, artichokes and olive oil.
We’re also going to bring this recipe into the Information Age just so you don’t have to clean three pots. Bon Appetit offered this simple method to poach an egg in the microwave – just take care to cover it, because eggs can build up steam pressure and splatter. This recipe will serve four people, so make 4 eggs.
1/2 cup cornmeal
2 cups milk (I use lowfat)
1/2 tsp salt
4 oz melting cheese of your choice, cubed or shredded (I used cheddar)
(Butter is traditional, but I don’t particularly miss it)
1 15oz can small artichokes, quartered (you can use marinated)
1 4oz jar roasted red peppers, cut in strips
1/4 tsp granulated garlic
1/4 tsp granulated onion
1 tbsp minced dried onion
about 2 tbsp white wine
1/4 cup chicken stock (or crushed tomatoes)
2 tbsp EVOO
Salt and pepper to taste
Paprika to garnish
2 cups water, divided
a dash of vinegar
This sounds like a lot of work for brunch or breakfast, but if you have all the ingredients handy, it’s really just a few minutes and you’re done. However – soak your pots once they’re empty; cheese grits can be sticky.
First, put your garlic, onion, and onion flakes in a small frying pan with your white wine and place over low heat while you make the grits. Have your artichokes and peppers drained and cut as needed so they’re ready to go.
Add your artichokes and peppers to the pan with the onions and bring the heat up to high. Add the stock (if you want to go traditional, use canned tomatoes in their juice instead) and reduce to make a sauce. Remove from heat and add the olive oil. Carefully return to medium-low heat and stir to combine. Season to taste.
Put 1/2 cup of water in a microwave-safe mug with a small dash of vinegar. Cover the mug with a saucer and place in the microwave. Microwave on high for about 1 minute (note, the egg yolk may pop or otherwise make a startling noise, but this doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve overcooked the egg.) Remove and stir gently with a spoon to make sure the egg is cooked on all sides – if not, set aside to cook in the hot water for 1 or 2 minutes. Repeat with remaining eggs. Drain thoroughly with a slotted spoon, being careful not to pop the yolk.
Put a quarter of the grits on your plate and top with piperade and a poached egg; sprinkle with paprika if you like. Enjoy!