Monday, March 1, 2010

Country Ham, Grits and Red Eye Gravy - Oh My!

Here's the scenario: My husband and I arrived to visit my Mom in North Carolina and 6 hours after arriving it started snowing, and snowing, and...snowing. For four days straight we never left the house further than the front porch. Stuck in the house, together, for 4 days. Sounds like the title of a "Family Horror Film", right? I have to say, I was a tiny bit worried. Then the darndest thing happened - we started laughing, telling stories, cooking and eating, laughing, eating some more and really enjoying the time with each other.
My mom "cooked up" some good ol' Country Ham, Grits and Red Eye gravy that first morning and the house became our little cozy haven and the snowy world outside a movie we were watching.My mom and I got the chance to experiment with her new Bread Machine: making rolls, croissants, cinnamon buns and loaves. And she gave me free range in the kitchen to just "piddle" and try whatever I could find. While I cooked, across the open kitchen bar my husband sat at the table with my mom. He asked her about the "good old days" and we both listened to her stories of dating, church going, her grandparents, her Cherokee Grandmother and growing up during the depression. At one point she described the car that my dad and she had their first date in years ago. My husband got his laptop out and started hunting for the model, year and make and together they found a picture of the exact kind of car - same color and everything.
Because of being snowed in, time seemed to slow down. There was no chance to visit other hometown friends, or try new restaurants. All day long, we just sat and talked. We watched a little of my mom's "church programs" on the television, and we cooked, and we ate food and we looked at pictures. In time, this visit may become one of my favorite ones. It took all of us wanting it to be good, wanting to be patient and wanting to enjoy each other to make it happen so sweetly. It doesn't snow that often in North Carolina, it's been an odd year for the whole planet, it seems. I'm thankful for the challenge, and I would not have wanted it any other way.
Country Ham and Red Eye Gravy:
Heat a saute pan on Low/Med. and slide a slice of this salty cured ham into it for about 6-8 minutes, turning to heat evenly. Don't cook too high, as you want to render a little of the fat out of the ham for the gravy.

Remove the ham and hold on a plate.

Add to the rendered fat, 1/2 cup of the strongest coffee possible (some of us Southerners also add a teaspoon of sugar to balance the salt and bitter.)

Turn the heat up just a bit and stir often as you release the tasty bits from the pan and let the gravy reduce about a third. This is a loose gravy, probably will not coat your spoon, but will cover your grits with eye-opening flavor for the morning.
2 cups water
1/2 cup grits
salt/pepper to taste
Butter to taste
Grits are made similar to Polenta. Bring the water to a boil in a sauce pan, then sprinkle the grits over the water and stir. Add salt and pepper to taste. Boil gently, stirring until the grits have been absorbed, then add a bit of butter and stir til creamy or to your liking.
(optional: add a bit of grated cheese in with the butter)

Enjoy, yawl.


Cori said...

OMG! That picture of your mom is fantastic!

Lauren said...

I don't think I've ever had grits, but boy does all of that look amazing!

Steve said...

I wonder if I've been doing it wrong all this time. I use the rendered ham fat with some flour to make a roux and then add the coffee so I end up with a thicker gravy. Is this an acceptable variation or have I deviated too far? I'll admit that part of my problem is that, until fairly recently, proper country ham has't been readily available where I live, so I'm sure the flavor isn't right on that count, alone. I'm a dang Yankee who prefers southern cooking- especially in the morning. Thank you for sharing!

showfoodchef said...

Steve: thanks for the comment. If you're "deviating" you might just have a little southern in your blood :D
Your gravy is more like a "chicken fried gravy", but it sounds wonderful. There are probably as many recipes as there are families to cook 'em, so serve it up - sounds like it's packed with flavor!

Tiana said...

Thanks this is was just the recipe I needed. Had grits for the first time the other day. No wonder they're so huge in the south. AMAZING. Can't wait to try all sorts of combos now.

Anonymous said...

Add a fried egg over easy and you have a feast to remember. Makes my mouth water just thinking about it.

Preciousvee said...

My mom used the cook this and sometimes omit the grits and make homemade biscuits and scrambled eggs...ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS both ways! I cook it myself now. Almost went to the store to buy the ham this morning, but it was raining. I will be cooking it by Monday.