Friday, September 28, 2007

Spring Chicken and Grits

Grits are a southern staple. I grew up eating grits for breakfast. My dad was usually in charge of breakfast (before I was old enough to prepare it myself) and more often than not during the weekdays, he heated up a bowl of grits or oatmeal for my sister and I, and padded back to bed. He wasn’t much of an early riser!

Grits are often ignored… given a bad rap as a poor man’s breakfast… but they are so much more than that.

About 20 years ago, a popular dish served by Crook’s Corner in Chapel Hill, NC received national acclaim. A dish simply called, “Shrimp and Grits” was sampled by none other than Craig Claiborne, former food editor of the New York Times, and after his glowing article on the dish, it became a national hit. While the dish probably originated in the low country South Carolina area, it’s been the best seller and signature dish at Crook's Corner since Claiborne's article. It's also now popular in upscale restaurants around the country.

On many food blogs I have read, there is a lot of hype around polenta. It sounds fancy. Italian. Gourmet.

Folks… it’s grits. Polenta is just a fancy-smancy name for grits. Humble, little, delicious grits.

Basically grits is/are (who knows what the proper English usage would be, this has been debated for years) whole kernels of yellow corn that have been ground into pieces usually by a stone mill. There are several different types of grits. The best kind to buy for a meal like this is the traditional stone ground grits. Because the whole corn grain is used stone ground grits are best kept refrigerated (due to the oils in the germ). You can also buy quick cooking grits, Quaker is a popular brand, but if you want the real deal… buy traditional stone ground.

Grits are excellent for breakfast (because they are easily digestible), great for a quick lunch, and in my opinion, are a delicious and different dish to serve with dinner.

The grits in this recipe are used as the foundation of the meal as they are used in Shrimp and Grits.

This chicken is fancy enough for company, and humble enough for an everyday meal… just make sure your husband, who was dragged into helping you with dinner, who has an unusually queasy stomach...doesn’t cut up the fresh chicken before cooking and won’t eat the rest of the meal… you’ll be stuck with an entire pan of Spring Chicken and Grits to eat all by yourself.

Maybe that’s not such a bad thing (as this is one heck of a delicious dish!)… but just for the fun of it, bring some friends over who don’t mind cutting up chicken and are excited about eatin’ grits for dinner AND enjoy!!

Spring Chicken and Grits

  • 1 lb. skinless, boneless chicken breasts, trimmed of fat
  • 3 Tbsp. rice flour
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. peanut oil (or olive oil)
  • 2/3 cup sliced scallions
  • 1 ½ cups sugar snap peas, trimmed and stringed
  • 3 Tbsp. water or chicken stock
  • 1 large garlic clove, crushed through a garlic press
  • 1 recipe of basic boiled grits (see recipe below), hot and liquid, but not too runny


  1. Cut chicken into 2-inch strips. Season rice flour with salt and pepper and dust chicken strips lightly with the mixture.

  1. Heat the oil in the large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and brown lightly on all sides, roughly 6-7 minutes. Remove chicken to a warm place. Set aside.

  1. Add scallions and sugar snap peas to the skillet. Stir about until just wilted. Do not overcook. Return chicken to the pan and add water and garlic. Toss about until hot.

  1. Divide the grits among 4 warm plates. Spoon chicken and vegetables over the top and serve immediately.

I actually made cheese grits by adding freshly grated asiago cheese, and a little freshly grated nutmeg. Michael would have preferred them plain or with cheddar cheese.

I served this dish with a green leaf salad and homemade cucumber dill dressing.


Uncooked Stone Ground Grits

“Old recipes always direct you to first “wash” the grits. Even today most modern stone-ground grits need rinsing to separate the last remains of the hull or chaff from the kernel. Simply cover the grits with cold water. The meal will sink to the bottom and the chaff will float to the surface, where it can be skimmed off with a kitchen strainer.”
- Bill Neal and David Perry from pg. 22 “The Good Old Grits Cookbook.”

Basic Boiled Grits

  • 1 cup stone ground grits
  • 4 cups water
  • ½ tsp. salt, or to taste
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  1. Pour the grits into a large bowl and cover with cold water. Skim off chaff as it floats to the surface. Stir the grits about and skim again until all the chaff has been removed. Drain the grits in a sieve.
  2. Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan. Add the salt and slowly stir in the grits. Cook at a simmer, stirring frequently, until the grits are done to the consistency you prefer – should be quite thick and creamy – last night only took about 20 minutes, can take up to 40 minutes depending on how high you have the heat.
  3. Remove the grits from the heat and stir in the butter.

A finished pot of hot, creamy, yummy, Stone Ground Grits!

** Both of these recipes originated from Bill Neal’s and David Perry’s book, “The Good Old Grits Cookbook.”

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