Sunday, April 22, 2012

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Weekend Grillades and Grits

I dote on grillades. Whenever I'm in New Orleans, I try to squeeze in at least one meal of the long-simmered veal — or sometimes pork — slices served over grits. Even, as it occasionally happens, if they're dished out over plain buttered rice, they're a fantastic way to ease a languid morning into a lazy afternoon.

Elizabeth's in the Bywater neighborhood serves a respectable, chunky version (get a side order of praline bacon). Any number of places in the French Quarter serve them; Green Goddess, for instance, or Arnaud's. EAT New Orleans, just a block down from Good Friends (site of the notorious Chicken Drop from Chickenshit Afternoon), is another good one.

Perhaps the best, though, I ever had was when chef (and James Beard Award winner) Ann Cashion cooked a batch one morning when we were in town for Carnival. Cashion was visiting as well and she cooked up a stunner of a New Orleans breakfast for a group of mutual friends. A pot of stone-ground grits burbled and plopped quietly to one side of the stove while a huge old Magnalite oval roaster held  perhaps two gallons of long-simmered chunks of tender meat in a dark brown sauce.

Yeah, yeah. Yellow grits was all I had. Still good.
It is possible, though not likely, that Ann, too, will come to your house to cook grillades. In the event that she doesn't, I have a solution that's a very good second choice and that still puts smiles on my family's faces. In fact, they've been observed moaning barely articulate sacrilegious oaths while tucking into broad bowls of the grillades I make at home. 

When there's a crowd to feed for a weekend breakfast and I want to get a taste of New Orleans, I work up a big batch of grillades that's based on John Besh's door-stopper of a cookbook, My New Orleans. Besh calls for boneless veal shoulder, a traditional choice. Slightly adapted from his, here's how we're making grillades around the Whiskey Forge.

That is, at least until Cashion comes a'calling and takes over my stove while I mix drinks.
Slow-Cooked Grillades

4 pounds boneless pork [or veal] shoulder, sliced into thin cutlets
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons basic Creole spices
¼ cup rendered bacon fat
1 large onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups canned whole plum tomatoes, drained, seeded, and diced
2 cups basic chicken stock
leaves from one sprig fresh thyme
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon Worcestershire
Two green onions, chopped
Prepared grits

Season the pork cutlets with salt and pepper. Whisk the flour together with the Creole spices in a medium bowl. Dredge the cutlets in the seasoned flour and shake off excess. Reserve a tablespoon of seasoned flour.

Melt the bacon fat in a large skillet over high heat. Fry the cutlets, several at a time, until golden brown on both sides. Take care not to overcrowd the skillet. Remove cutlets from skillet and continue to cook in batches until all the pork has been browned. Set the pork aside while you continue making the sauce.

Reduce the heat to medium-high, add onions to the same skillet, and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until they are a deep mahogany color, about 20 minutes. Add the celery, bell pepper, and garlic, reduced the heat to moderate, and continue cooking, stirring often, for about 5 minutes. Sprinkle the 1 tablespoon of reserved seasoned flour into the skillet and stir to mix it into the vegetables.

Increase heat to high, stir in the tomatoes and stock, then cook until it comes to a boil. Reduce the heat to moderate and stir the thyme, pepper flakes, bay leaf, and Worcestershire into the vegetables. Add the pork cutlets, cover, and simmer until the feel is fork tender, about 45 minutes.

Season with salt, pepper, Tabasco, then add the green onions. Serve over grits.
 *Besh serves this over cheese grits flecked with jalapenos and calls for Tabasco. We go for Cholula hot sauce and, like Cashion, omit the jalapenos. Normally, I use white grits, but today all we had were yellow. Still very good.

Goes well with:
  • Long-simmered stone-ground grits are what you want here. Anson Mills will ship theirs right to your door. My advice? Save on shipping by ordering ten pounds and split the costs with a friend or two.
  • Don Rockwell has an online AMA-type interview with Cashion here.
  • John Besh's My New Orleans is not the last word on New Orleans cooking. But it's an excellent place to start. I drop a few plaudits on his book is here.
  • Sara Roahen's Gumbo Tales is a must for understanding food and local mentality in post-Katrina New Orleans.


h1990 said...

oh my mouth is drooling. That sounds so good. I need to get to New Orleans and get me some of that.

Matthew Rowley said...

I suggest doing so posthaste. I am trying to figure out the next time I can get to town. I'm missing Tales of the Cocktail this year, but one of my cousins keeps a condominium on Jackson Square, so the temptation is strong...