Grits, a porridge made out of cornmeal, is an iconic element of Southern cuisine. Its smooth texture and mild flavor pairing with everything from eggs to cheese to gravy to shrimp. But if you find yourself with a bunch of extra grits at the end of your meal, you may wonder how best to transform that tasty mash into something new. To help with this question, we consulted six professional chefs and gathered their recommendations for the best Southern recipes to make delicious use of leftover grits.
Going off of grits' reputation as a breakfast MVP, owner, and executive chef Jeanie Roland of Ella's Food & Drink in Westerly, Rhode Island likes to turn leftover grits into a spin on classic hushpuppies. "I add grated cheddar cheese, chilis, sliced green onions, and an egg to the grits. I then form the mix into smaller balls and pan-fry until the cheese is melted! This is the ultimate breakfast side dish for eggs topped with your favorite chili sauce. Also, these 'grit hushpuppies' can be their own main dish served with a side salad or wilted greens," says Roland.
Grit & Sausage Cakes
"Grit cakes" are a common way to reuse leftover grits, and executive chef Gus Martin of Tujague's in New Orleans, Louisiana bolsters his grit cakes with protein, courtesy of andouille sausage. "I love using stone-ground grits, which take a little bit longer to cook. In the South, we also use a little bit more cream and butter in our grits. At the end of the day, I like to grind up a little bit of andouille or smoked sausage, sauté it down with some onions, and fold it into the leftover grits. You can also add some shredded cheddar cheese if you want. I then smooth it out on a sheet pan and refrigerate it overnight. The next day, I cut them into squares or rings, dredge them in flour, egg wash, and Panko breadcrumbs, and then fry them up. You can top with a nice salad and poached eggs," explains Martin.
A Tuscan salad traditionally made with stale bread, tomatoes, and other seasonal veggies, panzanella can get a Southern makeover by replacing the bread with leftover grits, according to executive chef Matt Bolus of The 404 Kitchen in Nashville, Tennessee: "Cut your leftover grits into one-inch cubes and deep fry them at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until crispy. Alternatively, you could also roast them in the oven or sear them in a pan if you don't want to get the deep fryer out. Make your tomato-and-vegetable salad of choice, nicely dressed and seasoned, and then toss the crispy "grit croutons" in and enjoy every bite. This salad is also really good if the croutons are still warm, providing a great contrast between warm and cool temperatures"
When making a casserole, chef/owner Ebony Austin of Nouveau Bar & Grill in Atlanta, Georgia uses leftover grits "as the base. From that point, you can add eggs, vegetables, or sausage for a breakfast casserole. Or, if you prefer, you can addt beef or steak for a dinner casserole. Simply put the desired ingredients on top of the grits and bake for 40-45 mins at 375°F."
Shakshuka, a North African and Middle Eastern tomato and pepper stew topped with poached eggs, is traditionally served with pita to soak up its spicy and saucy goodness. However, South Carolina-based recipe developer Carolyn Truett of Caramel and Cashews suggests instead serving shakshuka over a bed of leftover grits. "My favorite way to enjoy leftover grits is with spicy shakshuka! Use it as a creamy base for this saucy dish. The combination is otherworldly. Sweet and acidic tomatoes complement creamy stone-ground grits in the best way. Add some hot sauce, and you're in business," says Truett.
To turn leftover grits into a crispy handheld treat, follow the advice of campus executive chef Anthony Hustad of Sodexo Tulane University in New Orleans and "cut cold grits into sticks, then deep fry, air fry or pan sear on all sides until golden brown. Place on a paper towel to blot grease, then sprinkle with salt, herbs and cheese, or cinnamon, sugar and honey. These can also be served as a side to chili or with marinara sauce for dipping."
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