Cheesy Grits with Olive Pesto and a Soft-Boiled Egg

Cheesy Grits with Olive Pesto and a Poached Egg

Grits, Polenta, Cornmeal – whatever you call it and however you prepare it, it can take on many forms and flavors.  To us, slow-cooked grits is about as comfy as comfort food gets.  When done right, grits can be amazing.  Too often, people associate grits with the translucent, gel-like, flavorless substance they encounter at cheap breakfast houses the world over.  I often say that if you don’t like a particular food, you might have just had a bad version. I was this way with grits, apple pie, turnips, pork chops, just to name a few.  When I had a GOOD bowl of cheesy, smooth grits, I was hooked.  When I had an apple pie that was distinctly apple and had a good, buttery crust and wasn’t watery, I understood the appeal.  Sometimes you just have to give a dish a few tries before putting it in the “dislike” category.

This recipe for grits is one of my favorites, so far.  This basic, creamy grit recipe stays the same – just the toppings change.  This makes it one of the easiest weeknight meals to prepare because the grits cook for about an hour, which you inadvertently stir while you’re doing other things.  Then, when it’s time for dinner, you just spoon out helpings, add toppings of choice, and dig in.  I honestly think that it’s a healthy meal, too, because the grits are cooked with chicken stock and you don’t even have to add cheese for amazing depth of flavor, if you use good grits.  I use Lamb’s stone ground grits, (you can find these at United) and they are amazing.  Just a little seasoning and they are perfect.  So, the indulgence level is up to you with this beautiful, blank canvas!

I found a recipe for an olive pesto on this beautiful blog, and with the poached egg, she had me sold.  Only, I didn’t poach mine, I did a pretty fool-proof method of soft boiling the eggs, letting them cool, and then carefully peeling them.  Not so fresh eggs work best with this method.  I will post my own pesto recipe on this blog, soon, as I’ve made it quite frequently and it’s one of those things, like guacamole, that you should just know how to do and do well.  And by “well” I mean, keep it pure and simple!

Cheesy Grits with Poached Egg and Olive Pesto

Cheesy Grits with Olive Pesto and a Soft Boiled Egg*

For the Polenta:
2 cups stone ground grits (do NOT use instant grits)
8 cups water/chicken stock (I did half and half)
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, or any other hard cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste

Get the water and/or chicken stock boiling on the stove.  Gradually whisk in the grits, careful to break up all the clumps.  Lower the water to a simmer and stir, occasionally, for about an hour.  You can test to see if they need more cooking by tasting a bit for crunchiness.  Shouldn’t be too crunchy – think of it like cooking rice.  Stir in the cheese till it melts and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.  Cover and set the burner on low and get on with your toppings.

For the Pesto:
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup green olives, coarsely chopped
1 cup fresh basil
1/2 cup fresh oregano or marjoram (I discovered they are wickedly similar)
1/4 cup fresh thyme, coarsely chopped

Put all this stuff in a blender, food processor, or tall cup with an immersion blender and pulse till chunky and well combined.

For the Eggs:
1 egg per person, room temp (To make them room temp quickly, simply put them in lukewarm water for about 10 minutes)
a big ol’ pot of water
tablespoon of white vinegar
salt

Get a big pot boiling with water and salt it and add the vinegar.  Carefully lower the eggs into the boiling water.  Boil for 5 minutes.  Remove from the water and let them sit in lukewarm water till cool enough to handle.  Veeeerrrrrry carefully peel the eggs and set aside.

Assemble!

Spoon grits into each bowl (they may need to be stirred a bit from sitting there.  They form a skin, but it’s okay, it stirs back up just great) and top with a poached egg, a spoon of pesto and extra pepper.

*adapted from thekitchn.com

Poached Egg Salad with Bacon and Sherry Dijon Vinaigrette

Poached Egg Salad with Bacon and Sherry Dijon Vinaigrette

Everything about this salad is good.  The vinaigrette is simple to make and extremely satisfying to me, a reformed cream-based dressings only kind of person.  I’m from Portales, NM – we like ranch dressing more than we should.  Any time Matt would order a vinaigrette at a restaurant, I would scoff as if he were simply trying to make a point that I should choose a healthier option because how could he really prefer a vinaigrette?  Well, I think you could easily prefer this one.  This salad has enough richness from the bacon (just one strip per person) and the poached egg that when it’s all combined, everything balances out perfectly.  This recipe is again, from the genius and simple, Bonne Femme Cookbook.  I think I’m unintentionally cooking my way through this book.  I made a diversion last week and cooked out of the Everyday Food magazine and while all the recipes were good, once I started this week cooking out of Bonne Femme again, I think Matt and I were both secretly relieved.  I can’t quite put my finger on why all the recipes work so well – I haven’t screwed up one, yet, and I’ve made nearly a dozen different recipes!  Maybe the mystery is that the French like everything to have a sauce?  It certainly creates a warmth for every meal that would be lacking otherwise.  And even with all these sauces, I’m still losing weight (down two more last week)  Woohoo!

So here’s to a salad with a sauce all its own when the yolk combines with the vinaigrette.  I made it a bit heartier by roasting some asparagus to have along side.  Asparagus and runny egg yolks are best friends, by the way.

Scared to poach an egg?  Well, you can buy one of those insert things that you put into a pot on your stove, or what I did was bring a medium saucepan to an active simmer (not boiling – I left my burner on medium heat), crack your egg into a small bowl first and then get your water swirling in a tornado fashion and then dump your egg into the middle of the swirling water.  It will look like a walleyed mess at first, but after 3-4 minutes, you can check the egg with a slotted spoon and if your whites are done and your yolk still feels jiggly to the touch, then it’s good to go.  The recipe suggests putting two tablespoons of white wine vinegar into your water to keep the whites from scattering so much. I forgot to do this, but am anxious to try again, soon.

Poached Egg Salad with Bacon and Sherry-Dijon Vinaigrette
serves 4

4 slices thick cut bacon, but into 1-inch pieces
3 cups torn mixed greens
1/2 cup sliced red onion
4 large eggs
1 recipe Sherry Mustard Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the bacon in a skillet over medium heat until crisp; remove from the skillet and drain on paper towels.
Toss the greens and red onion in a medium sized salad bowl.
Poach your eggs to desired done-ness, adding 2 tbs of vinegar to the water before adding the eggs.  Here’s another tutorial on how to poach an egg.
When the eggs are almost done, toss the bacon in the bowl with the greens and add enough vinaigrette to coat the leaves well – you may not need the whole recipe and less is more – an over dressed salad gets soggy  and gross really quick.
Arrange the salad among four serving plates and top each with a poached egg.  Season the egg with salt and pepper and serve immediately.  If you want to serve it with the asparagus, I’ve got the recipe for you below.

Sherry-Mustard Vinaigrette

In a small bowl, combine 1 clove of minced garlic with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.  Mash them together with the back of a spoon to make a rough paste.  Add 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar; whisk with a fork until the salt is dissolved.  Whisk in 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard.  Slowly add 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, whisking until incorporated.

Simple Roasted Asparagus

Wash and trim your asparagus.  Coat all the stalks in 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper.  Roast in a preheated 400F oven for 15 minutes.  Squeeze a few drops of lemon juice over and serve!