Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Cajun Grillades on Blue Cheese Grits

These are pronounced gree-yahds to you Northerners. Well, I'm a Northerner too but I cook Cajun like I was born in the bayou! Maybe I was and my parents never told me.

The origin of grillades has been the subject of many arguments in Bayou Country. It is believed that the dish originated when the country butchers preparing the boucherie sliced thin pieces of fresh pork and pan-fried these with sliced onions. The cooking took place, most feel, in black iron pots over the boucherie fires. The grillades were then eaten over grits or rice throughout the day. Today, grillades and grits are a tradition on many Sunday brunch menus. Most recipes call for veal round pounded lightly and smothered in its natural juices. One of the things I find most interesting about grillades is that it is one of those dishes that has a place on all rungs of the social ladder. Grillades may be found on the sharecropper's breakfast table or on the grand buffets of New Orleans. I consider this type of cooking my area of expertise, taking humble food to a whole new level.

My local supermarket has bottom round roasts on sale all the time for buy one get one free. A 4 pound roast like this cost me about 6.00. To begin the grillades I sliced the roast into 1/2 inch slices.

Then I dip each piece into a combination of flour, salt, pepper, garlic powder and thyme.

Brown the meat on both sides in some olive oil. Of course, I also add some bacon grease to the mix for flavor. Make sure the meat has a crisp brown crust.

Remove the meat from the pan and set aside.

Dice some bell peppers, onions and celery into small dice. This is the Holy Trinity of Cajun cooking.

Reserve the oil in the pan. This is where a lot of the flavor comes from. Now we will make the roux. Don't be afraid of roux. It's gotten a bad rap. As long as you make it like this you will never have a problem. This is the heart and soul of Cajun food.

Make sure your oil is very hot. Add a couple more tablespoons if there isn't much left in the pot. You should have about 5 Tablespoons.

Then add 1/2 cup of flour and start whisking it. It should be bubbling.

Whisk until all the flour is combined.

Scrape up all the tasty morsels which are stuck to the pan.

At first your roux will be a light color.

Keep whisking while it darkens. You can see it turning a darker brown around the edge of the pan. Keep pulling the darker parts towards the middle. Be careful not to splatter this. Roux is Cajun napalm.

See the nice rich brown color. This has taken maybe 5 minutes to this point.

The roux is ready when it is the color of a nicely roasted turkey. You can see that it has thickened a bit too.

Immediately dump the vegetables into the roux and quickly stir them to coat. Many recipes will tell you to saute' the vegetables separately and to add your liquid directly to the hot roux. NEVER do this. That is when a roux becomes dangerous. By adding the raw vegetables you cook them while they cool the roux.


Now add 2 cans of Rotel, 2 tablespoons of worcestershire sauce and a cup of red wine.

The level of spiciness is up to you. I use Red Hot because of how much flavor it adds with little heat. My view is that the heat should get your attention but not sear your taste buds. I also think too many people over do it with the heat and under do it with the flavor.

Add several tablespoons of dried thyme. Add a couple teaspoons of salt and the same of pepper.

Then slip the meat back into the pot.

Press it down until it is covered with the liquid. If you don't have enough liquid add some beef stock. I added about 3 cups for this recipe.

Add 4 bay leaves. Cover and place in a 300 degree oven for several hours.

The meat is ready when it falls apart when you try to cut it. You should be able to shred it with a fork.

You can sop up any extra oil by laying paper towels right on top of the gravy. Look at the wonderful rich thick gravy this recipe produces.

Place the shredded meat in a bowl.

Pour the gravy over it and stir to coat all of the meat.

Keep the grillades warm while you make the grits.

Try to find stone ground grits if possible. I couldn't find them for this recipe so I used 5 minuteQuaker grits and they turned out just fine. When the grits are almost done cooking, stir in some cheese. I like blue cheese with this dish because the salty cheese balanced the flavor of the rich grillades. You could use cheddar instead.

Serve the grillades over top of the cheesy grits.

Cajun comfort food!