Just gonna put this out there - this ranks in my top 5 meals, for taste and texture. Come with me, I show you secrets.
Yes, I have a lightbox. Yes, I like it. It cost 10 bucks in materials to construct - here's a how-to.
So if you remember the farmer's market porn I put up last weekend, you'll remember the behemoth mushroom I claimed mugged me. Last night it finally got eaten, atop some crispy, awesome grit cakes and a muscadine gravy. Good stuff. Bright but woodsy, textures ranging from silken (gravy) to meaty (mushroom) to crunchy (cakes). This is by far the most successful grit cake recipe I've ever attempted - and no wonder, sine it comes from the Anson Mills recipe page (heretofor referred to as the Grit Mafia). I'm going to break it all down. Here we go!
Goat Cheese Grit Cakes
altered from the Anson Mills recipe
makes 6 large or 8 medium cakes
1 cup quick-cooking white grits, washed twice (to remove the bran and increase creaminess)
1 small round smoked goat cheese (you can use regular goat cheese if you must, but if you can get your hands on a smoked cheese, dooo eeeeet)
3 cups good quality vegetable stock, plus a little water as needed
6 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup flour, for dredging
Cook your grits in a small pot. Just put the broth and grits in there and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, for about half an hour.
Line a 10 x 6 inch baking pan with parchment paper.
When grits are smooth and creamy (aka, "done") pour them into your baking pan. Smooth with a spatula or spoon and put them in the freezer for 30 minutes, until they're cooled and firm to the touch.
Grab a circular cookie cutter. Mine measures about 2.5 inches in diameter. Cut your 6 circles and remove them to a plate.
Heat half the butter in a heavy iron skillet until frothy. Take the pan off the heat and skim the froth from the butter with a spoon and discard. Return pan to heat, heat to medium-high.
In a shallow container, spread your flour. Press each cake into the flour and flip, pressing the other side as well. Gently shake extra flour off, and place in the skillet. Do only two at a time, so you can keep track of their delicious browning process.
Cook for 5-6 minutes a side - seriously - until a brown crust has formed on each. Remove to a baking sheet and keep warm in a 250f oven as you finish the rest.
*A note on clarifying your butter - Don't skip this step! The crunchy crust held up to saucing and the liquid from the mushrooms perfectly, and if I had to guess (which I do) I'd attribute that to the milk solids being removed first, preventing them from "melting" into the flour, almost like a cheese would do. Thus, you get crunchy, rather than chewy.
Quick Seared, then Braised, Chicken Mushroom
Hand sized chunk of Chicken Mushroom, sliced into 4-5 pieces
1/2 good quality vegetable stock
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon minced garlic
Fresh black pepper to taste
When I bought this sick-delish chunk of 'shroom, the glowing seller gave me some advice on preparing it: "I like a high-heat sear with butter and salt.". So while this incorporates one additional step, it starts with a sear.
But first, some science photos:
How awesome is that little planty. A closer look:
Make sure to carefully clean any cool planty inclusions before proceding. Also make sure to notice how amazing your future dinner is.
Melt your butter in your iron skillet over high heat. Add your mushrooms and toss with the butter. Press down and let sizzle, 2 minutes on each side, until some char has formed.
Add your stock and garlic and immediately cover your pan. Turn the heat to medium and let the mushrooms steam a bit, to cook all the way through. If you need to add a little more liquid, make it water, and go through the process again, until the mushroom is slightly translucent all the way through. The whole process should take less than 8 minutes.
Green Muscadine Gravy
Muscadines have a super-distinctive, tart, sweet taste, so I wanted to "water that down" a bit without losing any color. Using some green beans, green pepper, green zebra tomatoes and chives (all from either my garden, my nabe's garden, or ze market), I kept that olive-y look while keeping the flavors savory. Worked wonderfully (if I do say so myself) with the smokiness of the goat cheese. Like a fruited tomato sauce. Onward!
10 large muscadine grapes, hulled and seeded, sliced in half
Handful fresh green beans, cleaned and trimmed, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 small green pepper, seeded, chopped
1 large green tomato, chopped
1 tablespoon honey
Good splash bourbon or muscadine wine
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup good quality vegetable stock
Salt to taste
Melt your butter in a dutch oven or saucepan. Add onions, peppers, green beans, and saute over medium heat until softened (about 8 minutes). Deglaze with the bourbon (or wine) and saute a bit more, until alcohol has evaporated.
Add your tomato and grapes, saute for another 4 minutes, until they start falling apart. Add stock, honey, mix well, remove from heat.
Throw it all in a blender and puree for a couple of minutes. Strain it through a fine mesh sieve, pressing on solids. Rinse your dutch oven and return sauce to pan. Taste and add salt as needed to balance the flavor right on the cusp of sweetness/savory. Tada!
Put it all together! You'll need some freshly minced chives.
Ladle a spoonful or two of gravy into the middle of your plate, pushing toward the edges with the back of the ladle. Place two grit cakes in the center of the plate, and half your braised mushrooms on top of those. Sprinkle chives around the cakes, using whatever long pieces remain as a "sprout" from your mushrooms. Eat. Quickly.