It must be because of Instagram that I am suddenly so aware that it is Mardi Gras. Pictures of costumes and the bayou, cemeteries and levies carry me to New Orleans, a city I have visited many times, but not recently. I need to go again, to wander the parishes and eat. Just last week I had a visit from a dear family friend, who was raised in New Orleans. She brought with her a plate of her famous grillades and grits, which I reheated and ate with delight. Grillades (“gree-yahds”) are fried scallops (no, not grilled!) of pounded meat served in a classic sauce featuring the local trinity of flavor. Celery, onion and green bell pepper are stewed quickly in a rich roux, best served over milk grits. Beef, veal or pork loin can be used equally well. It’s a simple recipe which she told me simply, originally from slaughterhouse kitchens and made by the butchers. In the South, grillades is a hearty breakfast dish enjoyed on farms and in gracious homes alike, known to many and made more popular in The Picayune Creole Cookbook, long a classic. Perfect, simple cooking for a cold winter morning, or night. Serves 4 – 6 people.
Loveland Grillades and Grits
2 lbs scallops of pork, beef or veal
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon butter
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon flour
1 cup chopped celery with leaves
1 cup seeded green bell pepper
1 cup peeled, chopped yellow onion
3 small cans diced tomatoes
2 medium cloves garlic, sliced (always remove green germ)
1 cup red wine or vinegar
salt, pepper, cayenne
hot sauce to taste
Rinse, dry and then pound meat scallops gently between sheets of waxed paper, increasing their size by about half. Peal and chop the trinity of vegetables into the same medium dice for quick, even cooking. Slice the garlic finely. Heat the oil (not the butter) over a medium flame until it shimmers, and lightly fry the grillades on each side, about three minutes total. (Don’t crowd the pan; do this in batches.) Remove the grillades to a warm plate. Melt the butter in the fat, and then add the flour all at once. Add 1 ½ teaspoon of salt, and ½ teaspoon each of finely ground black pepper and cayenne. Stir with a wooden spoon constantly as the flour cooks and becomes golden, for a medium-dark roux. (Longer than for a white béchamel.) When the roux is nicely colored, add all of the vegetables and garlic, lower the heat, and cook them gently in the roux until they soften. Then add the wine or vinegar and all of the tomatoes and their juice, all at once. Now lower the flame, and stir everything together for a minute or two. (No need to deglaze the pan, just stir to combine the ingredients well.) Cover the pan and cook the sauce slowly for another 20 minutes. Then add all of the grillades and any juice from the plate, covering them with sauce. Cook slowly, uncovered, a few minutes until the meat is fully cooked. (Beef and veal more rare than pork.) Serve the grillades and sauce over or alongside the grits, and a bottle of hot sauce.
To make the grits for 4-6 people: Cover about 1 cup of stone-ground grits with cold water and stir hard to loosen the chaff from the grains. Remove the chaff with a small sieve, and then run cold water through the grits in a larger sieve. Boil equal parts water and whole milk – about 2 cups each – in a large, heavy pot, with a good teaspoon of salt. Add the grits all at once, boil very fast, and lower the flame. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon for a few minutes, separating the lumps against the sides of the pot. Continue cooking over low flame for 45 minutes or more, loosening the grits from time to time with hot water or milk. Melt a soupspoon of butter in ½ cup of heavy cream, put the hot grits in a hot serving dish (important) and stir in the creamy butter.