A different way with grits
When I was testing recipes from Paula Wolfert’s new book, “The Food of Morocco,” I found one that uses stone-ground grits for couscous. She writes that “corn couscous is popular in the southern Souss region, where, in summer, it is often served with shellfish and baby turnips, and in the mountains, where it is a winter staple with meat confit and vegetables.” Sounds good to me.
She recommends coarse corn grits, preferably stone-ground. And I just happened to have some from Anson Mills in South Carolina. Their Antebellum grits are made from heirloom white or yellow corn varieties — and stone-ground. In Wolfert’s recipe, grits are treated similarly to couscous -- that is, steamed several times, after moistening the grains with water and tossing and leaving them to rest until the water is absorbed.
Though you need to start up to three hours before serving, the process is fascinating — just how much water can the grain absorb? — and well worth the effort. The result is grits like you’ve never had them before, each grain distinct, with a clean, nutty taste. A 1-1/2 pound bag of grits will yield about 12 cups.
I’m a total convert.
Not that I needed an introduction to Anson Mills' grits. I was already a fan of the firm's quick-cooking grits, an ingredient in David Chang’s recipe for shrimp and grits with smoky bacon and slow-poached eggs from his 2009 cookbook "Momofuku." That recipe is a keeper, as is the cookbook.
For awhile, I couldn’t find the grits anywhere in L.A. and used to carry them back from the East Coast or order online. Now, both Surfas in Culver City and Cookbook in Echo Park are selling grits. Worth a visit to either store to see what else you might turn up.
It’s also worth noting that both stores keep their grits in the fridge, the better to keep them fresh. You should do the same.
-- S. Irene Virbila
Photo: Antebellum coarse yellow grits. Credit: Anson Mills.