Photo: Jennifer Causey; Prop Styling: Ginny Branch Stelling; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall
Marian Cooper Cairns
Caramelized onions, crispy pancetta, and sprinkles of blue cheese make these buttermilk grits incredibly decadent and packed with flavor. Pancetta, a bacon-esque Italian meat made from pork belly, and its saltiness work wonders with creamy stone-ground grits. Reserve the drippings from cooking the pancetta for caramelizing the sweet onions, adding in fresh sage once tender. The buttermilk adds a subtle, creamy tang to these stone-ground grits, which were inspired by the extraordinary artisan grits made by Jim Barkley’s mill, Barkley’s Mill, in North Carolina. For his stone-ground grits, Barkley uses vintage gristmills that were refurbished and placed in a pristine millhouse at Barkley’s Mill, and the beauty of these old machines is more than stone-deep. Grinding between the vertical stones of the gristmills keeps the corn from overheating during the milling process, protecting the integrity of the whole grain. The freshly ground grits are scooped by hand into cloth sacks, tied closed, and chilled. Those who appreciate corn grits know that this specially-crafted flavor is worth every penny! Grits go well with just about any Southern meal, at any time of day, on any holiday, or with any dish.
4 cups water
1 cup whole milk
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup uncooked stone-ground grits
3/4 cup whole buttermilk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 ounces diced pancetta
2 medium-size sweet onions
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh sage
Topping: crumbled blue cheese
How to Make It
Bring 4 cups water, 1 cup whole milk, and 1 1/4 tsp. kosher salt to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high. Gradually whisk in 1 cup uncooked stone-ground grits; return to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until creamy and thickened, 25 to 30 minutes.
Cook 4 oz. diced pancetta in a large skillet over medium, stirring often, until browned and crisp. (You will have about 1/2 cup cooked pancetta.) Remove with a slotted spoon, reserving 2 Tbsp. drippings in skillet. Chop 2 medium-size sweet onions. Cook in reserved drippings over medium-high, stirring constantly until caramelized, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in 1 1/2 Tbsp. minced fresh sage.
Remove grits from heat, and stir in 3/4 cup whole buttermilk and 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter. Stir onions and pancetta into warm grits. Sprinkle servings with crumbled blue cheese.