by Preston Brady III, Herbscapes.com
This time of year, almost everything is pumpkin-spiced so why not fry some good old southern hominy grits into the mix. They are quick and easy to make, and they don’t only have to be served for breakfast. We have been converting our Yankee friends to grits since 1950 when a recipe for shrimp and grits was published in a cookbook in Charleston, South Carolina. The dish is so beloved it’s the official state food there. The rest is history. People who love shrimp have found a way to appreciate grits, which as most know is just ground up corn. Making real grits is a time-consuming (but worthy) affair so most of us buy them ready to boil. While instant grits will do in a pinch, at least buy the 5-minute stove-top version. You can even cook those in a microwave by pouring about a cup into a bowl and add a cup of water and nuke it for 3 minutes. If they dry-up the easy fix is of course to add a little more water and stir.
Don’t get me wrong: I love some hash browns, especially crispy and maybe with some cheese and onion tossed in, but like San Francisco has my heart, grits have my pallet. So how complicated is it to make pumpkin-spiced grits? How about as complicated as boiling water or frying an egg. So, the spices you need are also worth the investment because you can use them for other dishes later, especially desserts. In this recipe I boiled the grits to a non-soupy consistency and then fried them with an egg and toast all in the same pan. You’ll need a can of pumpkin puree, easily found any time of year in the baking section of most stores. I buy it once in a while as a treat for my sulcata tortoises. They are grass-eaters and should not consume too much protein, but a treat once every few weeks allows them to be a little naughty, sort of like if I have two martinis before dinner instead of one.
In case you just want to buy pumpkin spice already mixed, Amazon has it here:
If you want to use your own spices you’ll need Allspice, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. If you are making grits for two: after the grits are cooked mix in 3 tablespoons of pumpkin puree and a half teaspoon of the above spices combined – so half teaspoon of the four spices mixed together. Add a half teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of brown sugar. Stir into the grits well and then add a few tablespoons of milk and put some butter to the frying pan and fry the grits on each side for about 2 minutes each side. You can also cook your eggs at the same time in the pan, and I like to add the buttered toast into the pan as well. Everything cooked at the same time in one pan (once you have the grits boiled first.) You can throw in some bacon or sausage or your favorite faux meat or even pancake or waffle. Be sure to put some butter on the grits once they are ready to serve.
It’s not really Halloween in the Deep South if at some point you don’t serve pumpkin grits. Do you dare try them with shrimp – yes, you do dare. Could you serve them as a non-vegetable side along with your flounder, salmon, steak or other entree? Yes, if you have Yankee friends visiting and you want to turn them away from the stereotyped image they have of Southern cooking of fried chicken, collard greens, fried green tomatoes, lima beans (wait, those sound great to) then put your culinary skills on display and wow them with a breakfast that includes pumpkin-spiced grits. If for some inexplicable reason you mess up the grits, you can just tell your guests trick or treat. They will be able to figure out which one they got.