As much as the Japanese love corn, I doubt that they eat grits. They don’t know what they’re missing! But sweet corn is beloved as a pizza topping, in a simple soup, and on donburis.
Grits are traditionally served in the U.S. South, east of the Mississippi River. Grits were first made with our American native corn by the indigenous American Indians of the region to preserve corn over the year from harvest to harvest. Grits are produced by treating corn kernels with an alkaline bath to remove the tough skins of the kernels, then dried and coarsely ground. The resulting product is made into a porridge and served for breakfast or as a side dish. Grits and red-eye gravy, with country ham or sausage and eggs is classic, as are cheese grits, and shrimp grits.
Though grits were unheard of where I grew up in Northern Michigan, I have come to love grits!
So I was surprised to hear that a friend, who has family ties to South Carolina, does not like them. I was also surprised that my sister-in-law, who has traveled far and wide, has never eaten grits. This post is dedicated to her!
When Mr. Tess and I eat grits, we eat them plain with butter and salt, and usually Tabasco sauce. Occasionally we’ll eat them “moon-viewing” style, with a soft-boiled egg on top.
But being a cheese-hound, I also love to grate some Monterey Jack cheese into the hot grits for extra creaminess. One can of course use a sharp Cheddar, or even a salty Parmesan. My favorite is to grate pepper-jack cheese on top rather than mixed into the porridge to enjoy the melty-stretchy cheese texture with smoothness of the grain.
Another topping we enjoy with grits is gribenes. Gribenes are sometimes nicknamed Kosher bacon because they are crispy-fat and addictive like bacon, but made with chicken skins.
Yakitori, grilled chicken skewers, are very popular in Japan. (tori)kawa ((とり)かわ) chicken skin, grilled until crispy
Me: I’ve never managed to grill chicken skin to lovely crispy nirvana on a skewer, but I make some mean gribenes that would be adored anywhere in the world.
Putting toppings over a simple bowl of grain porridge brings to my mind the concept of Japanese (multi-Asian) comfort food: rice porridge. Click on the pics to view reciepes.
Okra is a vegetable enjoyed in Japan for its slimy texture. I tried a bite once, in a gumbo at a potluck: it was very slimy! Okra came to the U.S. South from Africa, and remains a regional specialty. It was only two years ago that I fell in love when I made Wafu Spaghetti with Okra and Mussels.
These okra pickles are my most recent discovery on the pleasures of okra: crunchy, not too spicy, the seeds explode like little caviar in your mouth, and tart to perfection.