I Know Grits!


This post is a bit different. It's my first in a few months since starting culinary school and doesn’t actually feature a recipe. I just wanted to write something self- reflective about failing at something you’re not supposed to fail at.

Last weekend, Nubia and I spent the weekend in Atlanta attending the wedding of her good friend and Delta Sigma Theta line sister. With this being a Delta wedding in Atlanta, there were several other Deltas and their families in attendance. And since everyone in the framily knows me as a cook and some even know I’m enrolled in culinary school, I decided to show off some of my newly acquired pro skills and cook Sunday brunch for a group of 15 or so people.

I’ve been in culinary school since June, and I’ve heard a few chef instructors talk about what happens when they cook a dish that turns out wrong. I appreciate the honesty, but I always took it as something they tell us students so that we don’t beat ourselves up too much in class when our soufflés don’t puff. But last weekend’s brunch was an exercise in failure for me. I could make excuses, but the truth is, I just ruined the grits. What’s worst is, I know how to cook grits! Grits are one of my favorite things to eat- shrimp and grits, fish and grits, grits and eggs, cheese grits with salt, pepper, and butter – I love them all*! My problem arose when I tried to be too technique driven instead of going with what I already knew to be true.

Here’s what happened: The menu we planned consisted of buttermilk biscuits, frittatas, scrambled eggs, hash brown potatoes, bacon, and fish and grits. The dishes were mostly coming along well until I decided to dump the whole 32 ounce container of grits into a pot, add 64 fluid ounces of chicken stock, stir over medium heat and left it to cook….

… that’s all I did….

… really….

But the thing is, I’ve never cooked grits like that ever in my life! Let me explain: The week prior, in class, we learned different grain cooking techniques. One of which was the absorption method. The absorption method is quite simple. Using a ratio of about 2 to 1, you cover grains with liquid, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover until all the liquid has been absorbed and the grain (probably rice) is fully cooked. THIS DOES NOT WORK FOR GRITS! The reason, grits are a ground grain, which means its physical structure is a bit different than a full sized grain. Grits also absorb lots more liquid, much quicker than rice or oats. And they don’t actually begin to cook until they have absorbed all the water they can in their raw state. So, while wet rice grains can still be individually sifted, albeit with a little work and attention to detail, wet grits become like wet sand and immediate clump together. Because they clumped together, they burned on the bottom and never actually cooked, even though all the liquid had been absorbed. It was just a mess! In the end, we ended up trying to save them by adding nearly a whole other pot of water, but what was done was done. They were ruined.

With all that, I would have been so much better off trusting the method I’ve known for my whole life: just following the directions on the box.

So here are some photos of grits I made, because I know how to cook grits!

*I DON’T put sugar on grits, that’s disgusting