The stories that preface the recipes that Molly O'Neill collected for One Big Table are so engaging that, somehow, they make the recipes taste even better. This Southern classic of Creamy Grits and Chard is fantastic on its own—spicy, vinegary greens ladled over buttery grits—but it gets even better when you read about the South Carolina origins of the recipe.
Laid-off steel worker Azeez Mustafa bought a plot of South Carolina farmland in 1974. With no money leftover to build a house, he and his wife lived in a teepee on their tiny farm and began to grown vegetables without the use of chemicals or pesticides, pioneering organic farming in the area. This recipe for Creamy Grits and Chard comes from Mustafa's wife and is typical of the down-home farm fare that's served on their farm everyday at noon.
As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of One Big Table to give away this week.
- For the Grits:
- 1 cup whole hominy grits (white or yellow)
- 2 to 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (optional)
- For the Chard:
- 2 pounds rainbow chard, rinsed well and spun dry (spinach, watercress, or very young kale can also be used)
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 large garlic cloves, sliced thin
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, plus more to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more to taste
- 1 teaspoon cider vinegar
- 4 leaves youngest chard, washed, stemmed, dried, and cut into fine ribbons
To make the grits: Place grits in a bowl and cover with water. Stir once and let sit. When the hulls and chaff rise to the top, skim them off with a fine tea strainer. Drain the grits in a fine-mesh
strainer and rinse under cold water.
Put 3 cups water in a saucepan over medium heat. When it simmers, add the grits, and turn the heat to very low. Cook, stirring occasionally and adding water by the tablespoon as necessary, for 45 minutes, until the grits are tender.
Add 1 tablespoon water, cover, remove from heat, and let sit for 5 minutes.
Return to the heat, and beat in the butter a little at a time. Season with the salt and black pepper. Keep warm, stirring occasionally.
To make the chard: While the grits are cooking, cut the chard stems into ½-inch slices and cut the leaves crosswise into ½-inch ribbons.
Warm 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until it begins to turn gold. Stir in half the cayenne. Add the chard stems and toss to coat well. Reduce the heat to low and continue cooking, stirring frequently, for 4 to 5 minutes.
When the stems begin to grow tender, raise the heat to high and add the leaves. Season with the salt and the remaining cayenne pepper. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly, until the leaves are tender. add the vinegar and more salt and cayenne, if desired. toss to mix. Remove from heat.
To serve, spoon the grits onto a warmed platter and make a well in the center of the grits. Use tongs to remove the greens from the pan, squeezing out as much of the liquid as possible, and place them in a ring around the grits. Return the skillet to high heat, bring the juices to a boil and stir in the remaining olive oil. Spoon the juice into the center well in the grits. Sprinkle with the chard and serve immediately.