Crispy Fried Grit Cakes

September 20, 2016

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Like so many beloved Southern foods, grit cakes probably came about as a result of lean kitchen resources and the never-ending process of getting food to the table. Leftover grits from one breakfast could be cooled, cut, and fried for the next breakfast. Sometimes fried grit cakes took the place of meat, or were the sole breakfast offering, slathered with syrup or molasses, if luck would have it.

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Grit cakes are as easy to make as ice cubes. For better or worse, when you let cooked grits cool to room temperature they become a solid mass, sort of like cakey gelatin. Grits have terrific potential in their solid state. You can add a vast range of ingredients to the grits, cut the cakes into a number of shapes, and dress the fried cakes with an unlimited combination of toppings.
       Seared in a heavy skillet, the outsides of grit cakes develop a popcorn-like flavor. The oil you choose can add a lot of flavor too. A good olive oil will really stand out. Butter is rich and nutty and plays up that popcorn flavor. Take your time and cook at a lower temperature when using butter.
       Fried grit cakes are the perfect underpinning for rich, saucy dishes like Classic Southern Tomato Gravy. Similarly, taking a cue from Italian cooking, grit cakes made from our heirloom whole grain corn is quite similar to fried polenta. Topping them with your favorite Italian style sauce will be molto buono!
       One of our favorite ways to serve Crispy Fried Grit Cakes is as a simple appetizer. Top each square with fresh herbs and shaved vegetables—fennel, scallions, red cabbage—and drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette. Beautiful and delicious! 

Makes 6 cakes  |  Preparation time: About 20 minutes

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Ingredients

    Method

    Prepare the grits following the Basic Stovetop Grits recipe using the cooking liquid of your choice. (To find out about cooking liquids, check out Grits Basics: 5 Tips to Make Perfect Stone Ground Grits.) Incorporate whatever seasonings and inclusions that strike your fancy.

    Pour the grits into a straight-sided 8 x 8-inch baking pan, spreading them evenly. Let the grits cool and set for 30 to 45 minutes (they'll cool even quicker in the refrigerator). Once solid, use a knife to loosen the sides then flip the grit block onto a cutting board and cut into squares.

    Warm a heavy 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of butter or oil and swirl to coat the bottom. Fry the slices on one side until deep golden brown—8 to 12 minutes. Carefully flip the slices and brown the other side. For the crispiest, crunchiest cakes, flip the pieces again to fry each side twice. The surface gets drier and crisper each time they’re turned. Serve Crispy Fried Grit Cakes warm.

    Variation: Stuffing-Style Grit Cakes

    Sauté ¼ cup each finely diced celery and onion in 2 tablespoon of butter. Mix in ¼ teaspoon each of black pepper, rosemary, sage, and thyme. Add salt to taste. Fold the mixture into the cooked grits. Stuffing-Style Grit Cakes are perfect with roast turkey and chicken, topped with gravy, served with cranberry sauce, of course.





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