Cheese Grits Cake with Greens, Country Bacon, and Red Eye Gravy
Favorite flavors and ingredients of Southern regional foods -- smoky bacon, ham hocks, collards, grits, even Coca-Cola® and coffee -- find their way into this dish. The cheese-laced grits cakes are filled with bacon-flavored greens and deep-fried, then served with Red-Eye Gravy, a smoky ham-based gravy that is made with Coca-Cola® and coffee. This is a wonderful appetizer; it’s also a treat for brunch.
- Applewood-smoked Bacon - 1/4 pound, julienned
- Onion - 1 medium, diced
- Red Wine Vinegar - 2 cups
- Water - 2 cups
- Collard or Mustard greens - 2 bunches, stemmed and chopped
- Water - 1 quart
- Stoneground Grits - 2 cups
- Salt - 1 teaspoon
- Asiago Cheese - 1 cup, grated
- Red-Eye Gravy
- Ham Hocks or Ham trimmings - 1/2 pound
- Unsalted Butter - 2 tablespoons
- All-Purpose Flour - 2 tablespoons
- Chicken Stock (see Basics) - 1/4 cup
- Coca Cola® or other cola drink - 1/4 cup
- Strong Black Coffee - 1/8 cup
- Vegetable oil for frying
- Tomatoes - 2, seeded and chopped
- Scallion - 1, minced
- Bacon - 4 strips, cooked crisp and crumbled
To prepare the greens: Render the bacon in a large saucepan or pot over medium-high heat until the bacon is crisp. Add the onions and saute until translucent, about 1 minute. Add the vinegar and water and bring to a boil. Add the greens, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pot, and simmer until tender, about 1 hour. Drain any remaining liquid and let cool. When cool, roll the greens into eight 1-1/2-inch balls, spread on a baking sheet, and chill in the refrigerator.
To make the grits: Butter a muffin tin. Bring the water to a boil in a large saucepan or pot and add the grits, stirring constantly. Stir In the salt, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the cheese. Pour the grits into the prepared muffin tin, filling each cup half-full. Place a ball of greens on top of each cup of grits. Fill the cups with the remaining grits to cover the greens. Refrigerate until the grits are firm and easily turned out of the tin. Keep refrigerated until ready to fry.
To make the gravy: Saute the ham in the butter in a medium saute pan or skillet over medium-high heat. When browned, whisk in the flour and let cook 30 seconds, whisking gently to keep from sticking. Whisk in the stock, Coca Cola®, and coffee. Remove from heat and let cool; the gravy should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
To serve: Heat the vegetable oil to 350 F in a heavy 2-quart saucepan. Pop the grits cakes out of the muffin pan and lower into the hot oil with a slotted spoon, 2 or 3 at a time. Cook until golden brown, 3 - 4 minutes. Remove from oil with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Cut the cakes almost in half and open one cake like a book on each plate. Spoon red-eye gravy around the cakes. Garnish with chopped tomato, scallion, and bacon bits.