This dish is like Donny and Marie.
The stone-ground cornmeal is from Riverview Farms in GA, and came with me across the country. I bought it late last summer when I was craving cornbread. I made a big batch of that, studded with fresh corn kernels, in my cast iron skillet.
It was in Georgia, too, that I first discovered lion’s mane mushrooms. These Tribble lookalikes are adorable, as any fluffy living creature could be, soft but sturdy and meaty, with a delicate seafood-like flavor. Since I no longer live near the gulf, and thus have less local access to fresh shrimp, I dusted the mushrooms with Old Bay and used them in place of the seafood to play with this traditional Southern dish.
I didn’t grow up eating oatmeal or porridge, so it was in Georgia where I first tasted and then learned to make grits. Low and slow, with patience and continuously whisking. Something this homey and comforting is surprisingly high maintenance.
This time, I whisked in pureed roasted parsnips. A little sweet, slightly starchy, nutty and earthy. It’s not the craziest, or most trashed up add-in, but it’s different, worth it. A new way to use the season’s remaining root vegetables.
People who love to eat are always the best people.
— Julia Child
- Andouille sausage
Creamy Corn Grits with Parsnip Puree, Lion's Mane Mushrooms and Crispy Andouille Sausage
For the roasted parsnip puree:
12 ounces parsnips (about 5-6 medium-sized), peeled and diced
½ cup whole milk
Olive oil, salt and pepper
For the grits:
4 cups water
½ teaspoon salt
1 pat of butter
1¼ cups whole milk, divided
For the sausage and mushrooms:
2 links smoked andouille sausage, diced
1 tablespoon pastured lard (or coconut oil or butter)
1 pint lion’s mane mushrooms, tough stems removed and caps torn into pieces
¼ teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Toss the diced parsnips with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for 10 minutes and stir gently. Roast for another 10-15 minutes until golden brown and soft.
While the parsnips are roasting, bring the water, salt and pat of butter to boil. Stir in the cornmeal, reduce the heat to low, and let simmer for about 15 minutes. Whisk regularly to keep the grits from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
When the parsnips are soft, puree in a small food processor with ½ cup of milk until smooth.
Stir the parsnip puree into the grits with ½ cup of milk. I like to use a silicone spoonula to fold everything together and then whisk, whisk, whisk to prevent sticking. Let the mixture simmer for another 10 minutes.
Whisk in the remaining ¾ cup of milk and let the grits simmer, whisking often, for 35 minutes until they are thickened and soft. The consistency will be similar to mashed potatoes. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. (I like my grits like I like my gravy, with lots of freshly cracked black pepper.)
To prepare the sausage and mushrooms, heat the lard (or oil) in a pan over medium-high heat. Add in the sausage and cook until browned and caramelized. Remove the sausage from the pan using a slotted spoon and set aside. Keep the oil or fat in the pan and add the mushrooms. Sprinkle on the Old Bay seasoning. Let the sizzle for a few minutes so one side can brown before flipping them. Continue cooking for about 5 minutes more, stirring often to prevent burning. The mushrooms should release water. They’re done when brown, tender and appear more dry.
To serve, fill a bowl with grits (and add a dollop of butter or extra oil if you want). Top with sausage and mushrooms and chopped fresh cilantro, scallions or even hot sauce.
What’s your favorite thing to top off a bowl full of grits?