Cheesy grits may be delicious as a side dish, but top them with kale that's been simmered in chicken stock with smoky ham and they become a flavorful, hearty meal. A dash of vinegary hot sauce, and you may never want to eat them on their own again.
Why this recipe works:
- Using regular (not instant) grits allows enough time to prepare the kale-and-ham topping while the grits cook.
- Smoked ham infuses the kale with deep flavor that tastes like they've been simmered together for hours.
- 2 cups whole milk
- 2 cups water, plus more as necessary
- 1 cup coarse ground grits
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- 4 ounces cheddar cheese, grated
- 1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 4 ounces sliced smoked ham, chopped
- 1 large bunch kale (about 1 pound) tough stems removed, leaves roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup unsalted chicken stock
- Hot sauce, for serving (such as Louisiana Hot Sauce or Frank's Red Hot)
Bring milk and water to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Stir in grits and the 2 teaspoons of salt, and reduce heat to a bare simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until grits are thick and creamy, about 25 minutes. When done, turn off the heat, stir in 4 tablespoons butter and the cheddar and Parmesan cheeses. Season with salt and pepper, and thin with water if the grits have become too thick.
Meanwhile, melt remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add ham, and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp around the edges, about 2 minutes. Add the kale a few handfuls at a time and cook, stirring, until wilted.
Pour stock into skillet, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until kale is just tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Spoon the grits into bowls and top with the kale and ham. Drizzle with hot sauce and serve.