(Guest post by The Fiance…formerly known as “The Boyfriend”)
Remember Bob Ross? The late, afro-ed, I-can-create-a-masterpiece-painting-in-only-thirty-minutes guy who was a midday-Saturday fixture on PBS for so many years? (Actually, you can still find his show on a lot of PBS affiliates, if you’re looking for it.) The guy whose sanity you doubted because he talked to his paintings? (“Why, I think there’s a happy little tree right there. A happy little tree. Ha-a-a-a-a-py, happy, ha-a-a-a-a-py little tree. Oh, and I think he has a friend. Yup. Right the-e-r-re…”)
Ross used to tell his audience and the would-be Bob Rosses among them not to worry about the minor screw-ups they made while practicing the Ross technique. Those missteps could be used to create magic.
“There are no mistakes,” he used to say, “only ‘happy accidents.'”
On Saturday, I had a happy accident.
To a native Southerner, a chilly Saturday morning in early November screams one thing: Grits.
Saturday is my and Julie’s “cheat day” from Body for Life, the exercise and weight-loss program we’re following. It’s the one day of the week we’re allowed to eat whatever the hell we want in whatever amounts we want. (Not that you asked, but twenty-two pounds to date. And thanks for asking.) I decided on Friday night that we would have grits for breakfast on Saturday.
I’m a real snob about my grits. I don’t buy them at the supermarket. I order them online: stone-ground grits from Carolina Plantation in Darlington, South Carolina.
When I’m doing grits as a side dish, simplicity is best: grits, butter, and salt. But when I’m making grits as an entree, I like to experiment. Typically, I add garlic, cheese (cheddar, usually), and crumbled bacon. On Saturday, when the grits had almost finished cooking (“critical mass,” as I like to call it), I was deciding what to throw into the pot. I decided on my normal supermarket-variety cheddar. (Ed. note: There is none of this in the house.) (Author’s note: No? Then what’s that eight-ounce block of orange-ish stuff currently in the fridge with a label that reads “Kroger Medium Cheddar Cheese” and has an expiration date of February 26, 2011?)(Editor’s Note: Obviously an affront against God.)
But then Julie reminded me that we still had the remnants of a cheese assortment package that she purchased a few weeks back from igourmet.com. I pulled the package out of the fridge. The contents sounded promising. A Beemster Classic Extra Aged Gouda (from Holland) and a Red Leaf Cheddar (from Canada).
Oh, why not?
I grated, I suppose, three-quarters of a cup of the Gouda and a third of a cup of the cheddar, and added it to the pot. I threw in some crumbed bacon pieces and was ready to serve.
“Ooooh,” Julie chimed in from the couch, “you know what would be really good? Truffle oil.”
I had no idea that we had truffle oil in the cabinet, but when one loves a food and cocktail blogger, one shouldn’t be surprised at what one might find hidden in the remote corners of the pantry.
So Julie added truffle oil to the mixture. Not quite enough, she decided. She added more.
“That’s better,” she said, as she exited up the stairs with a small bowl to get ready to meet her mom for lunch.
What she left behind was the best pot of grits I’ve ever eaten. Absolute Ambrosia.
Ever make a dish that you decided to throw in a handful of this, a splash of that, and a large smidge of the other? And when you finished, you could remember neither the exact ingredients nor the proportions?
Therein lies the dilemma.
What follows is, as best I can recall, the recipe for…
Bacony, Multiple-cheesy, Truffle-oily Grits
1 cup grits (all right, you can use supermarket-grade grits…but if you use instant grits, you’re on your own and you’re no friend of mine), prepared according to package instructions
1/2 stick butter
1 tsp. salt (the amount that’s normally called for in the package instructions)
1 clove garlic, minced
3-4 strips bacon, fried crisp and crumbled
3/4 cup good quality aged Gouda cheese (Beemster 18 Month)
1/3 cup good quality cheddar cheese (Red Leaf Cheddar)
1/2 ounce black truffle oil
To the hot, cooked grits, add the above-listed ingredients, in the order listed. If you’re not sure about the cheese and truffle oil amounts, add them in small amounts. You can always add more, but you can’t take them out.
There are two great things about grits:
(1) It’s hard to ruin them. The only major mistake that can be made is to undercook them. If they’re overcooked, they just end up being thick and gloppy. So add more water. Add too much water? Cook them a bit longer until some of the liquid evaporates.
(2) They can be prepared in virtually endless variety. So if the above-listed ingredients don’t quite meet with your taste buds, experiment with your own ideas.