Thursday, April 05, 2007

True Grits

Yes, the forecast turned out to be correct, and summer quickly gave way to winter this week, and my cravings for lighter springtime fare have been edged out by the wish for warm comfort food.

But with a bundle of asparagus in the refrigerator, I couldn't give up too easily. After delaying my asparagus gratification until April, how could I possibly let it sit in the refrigerator, completely ignored?

I couldn't. And thanks to the recent (April 2007) issue of Vegetarian Times, I didn't have to.

You see, one of the recipes I had dog-eared in the issue was a glamorous take on cheese grits, turning this down-home favorite into mini soufflés filled with chopped, steamed asparagus. And there's no way I could turn down the potentially fantastic mingling of two of my favorite foods.

Of course, as so often happens, I didn't have all the same ingredients as the recipe demanded, and so... I improvised. Instead of the low-fat milk (which I usually have), I ended up using the last of the heavy cream in the fridge. Instead of Cheddar and Gouda, I used my last block of Gruyère cheese. Instead of separating multiple eggs, I used just one egg altogether. (Not to mention I cut the recipe in third, since I knew I didn't need six small souffles.) And I added some dried dill from my old garden to enhance the asparagus flavor. In all, it was higher in fat than the original recipe, which I wouldn't want to do again, but it still turned out very well.

Aren't those beautiful? And they smelled so delectable straight out of the oven. Yes, they collapsed quickly, but they remained rich and creamy inside with a crisp crust thanks to the grits used to dust the ramekins.

(UPDATE: If you decide to make these, serve them hot. They don't bounce back well as leftovers.)

What a satisfying compromise between springtime flavors and wintertime comfort food!

(But really, you can take the snow back now. Really.)

Cheesy Grits Soufflés with Asparagus

Though the original recipe was meant to serve 6, and I reduced it to a third, I still got four small ramekins' worth full of soufflé (and my ramekins are from the local pottery, averaging 3" diameter and 2" depth). Two were more than enough for a filling dinner, so I should have had a friend come by to help me out! Serve this with a good green salad and maybe a crisp white wine, but you won't need much else.

1/3 c grits, plus extra for dusting
1 c low-fat milk (or heavy cream, if you live dangerously)
2/3 tsp baking powder
1/4 steamed asparagus, chopped
1/2 tsp dried dill
1/2 c shredded cheese (Gruyère, Swiss, or even Havarti)
1 large egg

Preheat oven to 375 F. Coat 4 ramekins with butter or cooking spray, and dust with grits.

Bring grits, milk, and baking powder to a boil in pot. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, whisking constantly, until grits have thickened. Cool 5 minutes. Stir in asparagus, dill, cheese, and egg.

Divide among prepared ramekins. Bake 25 minutes, or until puffed and golden. Unmold soufflés and serve warm.

Serves 4


At 4/07/2007 11:02 PM, Blogger Anna Haight said...

My goodness these look good! My mother never made grits this way!

At 4/08/2007 3:24 PM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

My mother never made grits, period! But these are definitely a step closer to gourmet than even the baked grits a friend taught me to make. I imagine that, like with omelettes, they'd be good with other vegetables, herbs, and cheeses, too.

Thanks for stopping by, Anna!


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