With our culture shifting towards the obsession of eating out and finding the latest food establishment, people are fascinated with the fact that I love to cook and bake. Both things I wish I had more time to engross myself in. Both things that I shamefully and delightedly, admit, betray at times. As much as I enjoy cooking and creating sometimes questionable recipes for our little Betzen clan, I equally relish those moments when I don't have to lay hands on the stove or the sink. Give it a day or two though. Then the eager, somewhat dorky at times, student in me, begins to covet the lonesome Kitchenaid mixer sitting in my disheveled Ikea storage.
I mean if I really think about it, it's not like I win a gold medal for being a homemaker and taking care of the girls. It's not a big deal, especially since our own mothers and generations past mastered the art of cooking most every meal from scratch for the entire family. How did they do it? I wish I knew, and it's a question I ask over and over. But with every good intention comes a bit of temptation to eat out. And I'm so grateful to be living in such an eclectic food scene as LA and Orange County. LA and Orange County have been burgeoning businesses in a most viral way and one of the last places I tried was Grits in Fullerton.
When I tried their food for the first time, it was plainly love-at-first-taste. Their pork & grits dish was exactly what I had been looking for in a fusion type meal. The velvety texture of their peppery grits in complement to Dr. Pepper braised pork shank swimming in a sweet & tart cherry sauce, was perhaps one of the most peculiar yet pleasant combinations I've had in years. This recipe, probably nothing like the original dish but a simple ode to Grits as a future loyal customer, is still a great alternative. I used Alton Brown's recipe for creamy grits as a guide and adapted it to my own liking, and being the mushroom lover that I am, I couldn't imagine this without some tender Maitake ("Hen of the Woods") Mushroom in the mix.
Maitake 'Shrooms and Grits with a Cherry Sauce
Makes 2 servings || grits adapted from Alton Brown
Ingredients for mushroom saute
2 bunches of Maitake mushrooms (found at Whole Foods or Asian stores)
1/2 tbsp olive oil
pinch of salt and pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/3 cup water
1/2 tsp worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp soy sauce
Heat oil in a wok or skillet over medium heat. Saute mushrooms and the rest of the ingredients in the listed order for approximately 4-5 minutes. Remove mushrooms and transfer to a plate, leaving any liquid on the skillet or wok. Use the liquid for the cherry sauce.
Ingredients for sauce
1/3 cup cherry preserves (I use St. Dalfour)
leftover liquid from the mushrooms
Simply cook both ingredients over medium heat until it becomes a sauce reduction, whisking often. Serve with grits and mushrooms.
Ingredients for grits
1 cup water
3/4 cup milk (I use 2%)
1/3 cup half and half
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 a jalapeno chopped, seeds removed
2 tbsp unsalted butter
In a large pot over medium-high heat, bring the water, milk, half and half, black pepper, and salt to a boil. Then add the cornmeal little by little as you continually whisk. Incorporate fully and decrease the heat to low and cover with a lid.
Make sure to whisk frequently, about 2-3 minutes, to prevent grits from lumping and burning/sticking to the pot, especially the bottom. Cook for approximately 10 minutes and add chopped jalapeno. Cook and whisk for another 5-10 minutes or until mixture is creamy.
Remove from the heat and add the butter. Mix until it's incorporated well and serve with mushrooms and cherry sauce. You can add a teaspoon of butter to the finished dish for extra creaminess!