Recipe! Peppers and Pancetta with Grits

Grits, grits and more grits. They are smooth, buttery, sometimes cheesy, and they are the perfect antidote for chilly winter days, even though this January, at least, is shaping up to be a mild one. All the more reason to stock up on and spoon in grits ahead of time; your body will be conditioned for the warm grit onslaught that should be a key component of the chilliest part of winter. I have made this grits dish for three dinners so far. The last time I made it, I whipped up some Paula Deen’s Homemade biscuits, too, and, while chomping on a biscuit, thought that while this dish served as a great dinner, it would be the perfect dish for a brunch . . . and easy, too.

Mmmmm . . . grits and anything is a great combination! If you aren’t really familiar with grits, let’s get you there:

  • What are grits? coursely ground hominy
  • What is hominy? it is when the bran and germ have been removed from a piece of corn
  • Each year, St. George, SC hosts the World Grits Festival! The festival started there because they’d realized at one point that they were the place that ate “more grits per capita than any other place in the world.”* The festival holds an event called “Rolling in the Grits,” which sounds absolutely a mess but awesome, too.
  • GRITS is the acronym for the Georgia Registry of Immunization Transaction and Services, a unit that handles vaccination records and disease prevention for the state. Once you know this fact, just forget about it when eating your grits.
  • Speaking of Georgia, I learned that they made grits their State Prepared Food back in 2002. I’ve gotta say, “Dammit, Louisiana! What the hell were you waiting around for, a personal invitation?”
  • Grits is a Nashville-based musical act, and their music is not what you are thinking, I bet. Get a taste.
  • Back to South Carolina’s St. George . . . Major reason to support St. George’s World Grits Festival: it has churned out recipes including Deep Fried Grits-n-Cheese, Hot Tomato Grits and Hush Puppy Grits. There’s no way to go wrong with grits in any form, especially fried.
  • Across the internet, a factoid abounds that 3/4 of the grits sold in the U.S. are sold in the “grits belt,” the area of the country that covers Texas to Virginia.

That grits is a Southern-based food should not deter you. Time to own those grits.

Peppers and Pancetta with Grits

Ingredients:

Makes enough for four.

*Note: You can also substitute couscous for the grits in this dish. Cook according to directions on the package. Scroll to the bottom of the page to see pictures of both dishes.

For grits:

  • 3/4 cup old fashioned grits (Quaker or similar)
  • 3/5 cups water
  • 1/2 – 1 Tablespoon butter
  • salt and pepper

For peppers and pancetta:

  • 1.5 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1/2 shallot, sliced
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 bag of mini peppers (10-11 rainbow peppers in a bag) or 3-4 large peppers, chopped
  • 3/4 Tablespoon butter
  • 6 slices or approx. 6 ozs. pancetta, loosely chopped

*Please prep your ingredients. It will really make your cooking more enjoyable.

For grits:

1. Cook grits according to directions on package. I have based my ingredients on the Quaker Old Fashioned Grits product. This product advises you to cook your grits for 15-20 minutes, but I cook mine a little longer to help with water reduction. When I cook my grits, there is still some water at the top of my grits after about 23 minutes or so, but I pull the pot from the heat and let it sit while I finish up my peppers, and the results are delicious.

NOTE: ** I would advise against turning up the heat to speed up the process because grits will harden.  Just be sure to start testing your grits after about 15 minutes to get them to your liking.

2. I add my salt throughout the process and then add my pepper and butter at the end of the process; I do it all to taste.

For peppers and onions (while grits are cooking):

1. To a large skillet over medium heat, add olive oil and chopped garlic. Let saute for one minute.

2. Add shallot and onion to skillet; lightly salt and pepper. Saute for approximately 3.5 minutes.

3. Add all of your peppers; lightly salt and pepper. Add 3/4 Tablespoon butter to pan. Saute for approximately 6.5 minutes.

NOTE: **With all of these time allotments, I am working on browning and doneness. My goal is for my onions to be browned and for my peppers to be lightly browned but still have some mild crunchiness to them. Monitor your cooking to achieve the consistency you desire. Overcooking will lead to soggier peppers. Some people like it this way.

4. Line a plate with a paper towel. After the peppers are to your desired consistency, transfer all of the sauteed ingredients to the plate. Return the skillet to the (still functioning) burner.

5. To the same skillet, add the pancetta. Render until golden brown, which takes approximately 5 minutes.

6. When pancetta is ready, return peppers and onions back to same skillet. Stir ingredients together, move burner to low setting, heat for one minute.

7. To ready dish for presentation, make a bed of grits on a plate. Place peppers and onions atop grits. If desired and you have it, add a sprig of parsley or similar for a hint of green. You can also make these peppers on a bed of couscous for a lighter dish.

Peppers and Pancetta with Couscous