october 23, 2019
Meals eaten from a big bowl with a big spoon taste better, and that’s a fact, according to certain authorities. Okay, my authority and not necessarily others. It’s my favorite manner of meal delivery—big salad, big bowl of chunky soup and for this breakfast, big bowl of cheese grits topped with autumn veggies and local sausage.
It’s the time of year for hearty weekend breakfast and brunch, and this dish, with a few make-ahead steps, will bring comfort and homemade goodness to your weekend routine. The vegetables can be cut ahead (and if you’re really time crunched, cubes of butternut squash are ready at the grocer) and all you have to do is cook the cheese grits, ideally alongside the sausage. If multitasking is not your thing, make the sausage veggie skillet ahead, then move on to the grits. You can also make the cheddar grits and set them aside off the heat, returning to the heat and adding a bit of milk or water to get them into shape before topping with the hot sausage mix. The important thing is to cook and enjoy the process, no matter what road you choose. I will, however, strongly encourage you to lose any and all preconceived notions about grits. Old fashioned is best, not instant and not quick. Twenty minutes is all it takes for a pot of grits to come together, after the milk/water blend comes to simmer, and the taste is far superior to anything that promises quick results. Frequent whisking prevents lumpiness and sticking; since multitasking is part of my everyday job, I don’t devote twenty minutes to constant stirring, as some recipes insist, and my grits turn out tasty and toothsome every time.
Lucky me found Virginia breakfast sausage from Papa Weaver’s Pork at my local market Little House Green Grocery. It was lean and clean, tender and sweet. My preference is for a little heat in my sausage, and if you agree, add a few crushed red pepper flakes to the cooking sausage. After the sausage loses its pink, the vegetables are added and steamed until tender. Avoid using a nonstick skillet so you can deglaze the chewy sausage bits from the pan with some water or stock, using this as a thin sauce to embellish the grits. A cast iron or heavy stainless steel pan is best.
Are you ready for cool weather hearty weekend breakfasts? Me, too.
Sausage Vegetable Cheese Grits
recipe by Michele Humlan, The Good Eats Company
makes four servings
2 cups milk, preferably whole
2 cups water
1 cup old fashioned grits
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1-2 tablespoons neutral oil like canola or grapeseed
1 pound breakfast sausage (or Italian)
2 cups peeled butternut squash, cut in large cubes
8 ounces brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in halves
optional and recommended if sausage is mild: pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
lightly packed cup of chopped Italian parsley leaves
fine sea salt and finely ground white pepper
1 cup water or any kind of prepared stock (chicken, vegetable)
- Sausage and grits may be made concurrently or separately; if the latter, warm them both before combining in serving bowls.
- In heavy two quart saucepan, bring milk and water to gentle simmer with 1 teaspoon kosher salt and gradually whisk in grits, whisking frequently during cooking to prevent lumps and sticking.
- Lower heat and cook grits for a total of 20 minutes, whisking or stirring well frequently.
- Add butter and then cheddar, whisking well to combine; adjust seasoning with fine sea salt.
- Remove from heat while sausage cooks (or you can make them both on separate burners at the same time).
- In heavy skillet (avoid non-stick and use either cast iron or heavy stainless steel), heat oil over medium high until a drop of water sizzles on the surface of the pan, then add sausage, cooking over medium heat and breaking up lumps with wooden or slotted spoon, until most pink is gone.
- Add brussels sprouts and butternut squash, stirring gently; cover with lid over medium low heat about 30 minutes total, until vegetables are tender and easily pierced with knife; stir gently occasionally.
- Add crushed red pepper flakes if using and adjust salt and pepper to taste.
- If grits have been made first, return them to the heat and stir until creamy and hot, adding a bit of milk or water if needed.
- Divide grits among four large bowls and top with sausage mixture.
- Over high heat, add 1 cup water or stock (any kind) to sausage pan and stir well to release bits of sausage, making a light sauce; use this to spoon around the edges of each bowl.
- Garnish each bowl with parsley if desired and serve immediately .