Simple and savory, fried grits are one of those southern staples that unaccountably went out of style. I had never had them growing up or heard of them until I started cooking for myself after college and stumbled across a description of them in a book and thought, “Mmm….sounds good…” and how could it not? Crunchy on the outside, creamy on the inside and good for soaking up gravy it’s a perfect side for things like smothered chicken and Cajun classics like crawfish etoufee.
It instantly became part of my permanent repertoire after the first time I made it. Then a funny thing happened on the way to my rediscovery of this neglected southern classic.
Polenta. Increasingly during the nineties it became the nouvelle go to starch in Italian and fusion restaurants. It’s actually more northern Italian which is why it never appeared on menus much before that time, but after awhile I was running into it everywhere and it was nice to see this variation of an old favorite becoming a hit all across the country.
For this recipe I wanted the creamiest and most savory side I could get and that involves chicken broth and heavy cream. Because you are working with cold grits you can make them the night before and cover them with plastic wrap then slice and fry for supper the next day.
The quickest prep for this dish involves setting up three adjoining pans (and kitchen suppliers make special three set connected pans for just this purpose), add the flour, egg, and bread crumbs to each, place next to the fry pan and start your assembly line.
Once you’ve sliced, dipped and rolled them all you need to do is to lower them slowly into the fat with the usual instruction not to crowd the pan. All cooks should just internalize this for all forms of frying since crowding creates steam and lowers the temperature of the oil. It’s the culinary equivalent of the old sign warning you to “Beware. Bridge ices in cold weather.” Always and everywhere. Same with crowded skillets – just don’t.
You can also pour the grits into a glass casserole dish, let them chill, then cut them into rounds before dipping & frying as seen below:
The final useful tip is to place the finished product on a wire rack, over a cookie sheet in a slightly warm oven. This keeps all the sides crisp while the whole batch is cooking and crisp is the whole point!
- For the grits:
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup quick cook grits
- Salt and pepper to taste
- For the breading:
- 1 large egg beaten plus 1 tsp. water
- ½ cup flour
- 1½ cups Panko (or bread crumbs)
- ½ tsp. garlic granules (or powder)
- 2 tsps. minced parsley (fresh or dried)
- Vegetable oil
- For the grits:
- Bring the cream, chicken broth, and butter to a simmer.
- Add grits and stir for 20 minutes until soft.
- Pour into loaf pan.
- Let cool and slice into 1 inch slices or squares according to your preference.
- Add the garlic granules and parsley to the flour then dredge the slices in it, dip in the egg wash, and roll in panko
- Pour about one inch of oil in a frying pan and heat to 350 or until you can see heat ripples in the oil.
- Fry until brown on both sides.
- Drain on a rack and hold in a warm oven until all the slices are fried.
Works fine if you halve the ingredients.