The Easter Bunny stopped by my house and dropped a priority mail box full of NC grits on my door step. Yes, I get grits shipped to me from North Carolina. Luckily, I have parents who get it…that having good grits in your pantry is just as essential as rice and flour. I’ve dubbed grits a canvas food, like any other pantry staple. They are a blank canvas, begging to be added to and built upon. It usually takes adding a lot of those additional ingredients (namely salt) to pack a flavorful punch into grits (I don’t know why that is) but it’s worth it in the end.
Why spend money on good grits?
Stoneground grits, though they take longer to cook and cost a little more that the instant variety, have SO much more oomph than their inferior cousin. They’re heartier, more flavorful, and often creamier. So when you’re eating the stoneground version, you’re eating them for their nutty, textured profile rather than eating them as a forgettable, watery filler.
Happily, I got my hands on some fat, sweet Maine-caught scallops and thought it would be a nice change to sub those in a Southern classic: shrimp and grits. Good scallops, by themselves, are rich and luscious. Paired with corn, well, I swear—it’s a beautiful thing! I’m a huge fan of simple surf (seafood) and turf (corn) combinations: low country boils, lobster bakes, now scallops and grits—count me in for a 2nd helpin’!
The grits in this recipe are boiled with stock, buttermilk, a good hunk of butter, lots of black pepper, and a good bit of salt. Finally,
a little cheese is added. As I mentioned, grits take a lot of adding to to taste special. I have a hunch that’s why they haven’t gained popularity–they’ve earned a reputation of being bland. Boiling them in stock helps. And adding cream and cheese helps, too.
If you’re new to grits prep, use this recipe as a way to explore flavor combinations. Sub any cheese for the fontina and parm, any dairy or non-dairy liquid. Play with your food. Have fun.
Pungent garlic and shallots
Rich sauce created by those things listed above + a generous splash of white wine
Creamy fontina grits
The Recipe: Scallops and Grits
- For the Grits
- 2½ cup chicken stock
- 1 cup buttermilk
- ½ cup water
- ¾ tsp. salt
- 1 cup stoneground grits
- 1 cup fontina, shredded
- ¼ cup parmesan regianno, grated
- 2 Tbsp. butter
- ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- For the Scallops
- 3 slices of thick-sliced bacon
- bacon fat (from cooked bacon)
- ½ cup shallots, minced (about 2 large shallots)
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cup mushroom caps (stems removed), sliced
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 lb. fresh, wild-caught scallops (side-muscle removed from each)
- 1 Tbsp. butter
- 1 Tbsp. EVOO
- ½ cup dry white wine (like sauvignon blanc)
- In a medium sized saucepan, combine stock, buttermilk, water, and salt. Bring to a rolling boil. Gradually, whisk in grits. Reduce heat to low and cook for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally so grits don't stick/burn.
- After 10 minutes, taste the grits. They should be thick and creamy but have a distinct corn texture. If they need to cook longer, add more stock or water ½ cup at a time, continuing to stir occasionally, until grits are done.
- Now is also the time to add more salt if too bland for your taste.
- When done, remove grits from heat. Add fontina, parmesan, and butter. Stir until all is melted. Cover and keep warm while you cook the scallops.
- Place scallops on a paper-towel lined plate and top with another paper towel, pressing to dry. Set aside.
- Cut the bacon into ¼-1/2 inch strips. Add to large skillet and cook over medium heat until crisp and browned on all sides, about 5 minutes.
- Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel lined plate.
- Reserve about 2 Tbsp. of the bacon fat in the skillet, discarding the rest. If you don't have 2 Tbsp. of fat, supplement with olive oil. Over medium heat, add mushrooms, shallots, and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 4 minutes, or until mushrooms just begin to sweat and shallots and garlic are translucent. Transfer to a bowl.
- Crank up the heat to medium-high. Add butter and olive oil and heat until just smoking. Salt and pepper both sides of the scallops.
- Add scallops one by one to skillet with tongs, making sure the scallops do not touch. Give the pan a little jiggle and cook for 90 seconds to 2 minutes. Turn the scallops. They should have a nice golden-brown color. If more oil is needed, add 1 Tbsp. of butter or EVOO. You don't want a dry pan.
- Cook for 1 minute, giving the pan a little jiggle.
- Add the mushroom-shallot mixture and cooked bacon in with the scallops. Add white wine and let boil for 30 seconds or so or until the wine has reduced by half. Give the pan a few good shakes so everything is well-combined.
- Remove from heat.
- Ladle the grits in a bowl. Top with 4-5 scallops and the mushroom-bacon mixture. Drizzle with pan juices.
- Top with chopped chives or flat parsley.
For a meatless version, heat 1 Tbsp. butter and 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add ½ pound of quartered baby bellas (wiped clean) and cook for about 4 minutes, giving the pan a jiggle about half way through. You want the outsides of your mushrooms to be golden brown, so avoid moving them around too much. Transfer to a bowl.
Repeat with the other ½ pound of quartered baby bellas, and 1 Tbsp. each of butter and olive oil. Once golden brown (after 4ish minutes using the same method above), add already cooked mushrooms and their juices, 2 shallots (minced), 4 cloved of garlic (minced), ½ tsp. smoked paprika, salt and pepper to taste, and an extra Tbsp. butter. Saute for about 3 minutes, or until shallots are lightly transluscent. Add about 1/3 cup of white wine to deglaze the pan and turn off heat. Serve with buttermilk-fontina grits.