Grits. Just the sound of the word brings a warm feeling across the South.
The topic of grits is something of a sacred cow among Southern cooks and chefs. Grits are a staple in many rural Southern homes, and many conversations revolve around the subject. There’s a lot of passion and opinion about the revered grits. We’re a part this Southern foodway history. We have a deep affinity for our beloved grits, and this post is to celebrate them! Be sure to share your own history about this most Southern of foods on our facebook (Greensboro or Cary) or instagram (Greensboro or Cary) pages.
Add a dollop of butter and lots of heavy cream, smother them in cheese or dress them up with bacon, shrimp or red-eye gravy. You would think there’s not much you can do to mess up a bowl of grits—but you can. True Southern grits aficionados will tell you that though there are thousands of recipes, it’s rarely the recipe that makes the grits. It’s the love you put into standing there, stirring the pot: You know you can’t walk away from a pot of cooking grits very long or they stick to the bottom of the pan and scorch (we’ve all done it!). It’s also the right pot plus the right stove temperature (electric or gas factors into this as well). It’s taken some folks nearly a lifetime to get it right.
While it may not seem there are many things more inherently Southern than grits, they were originally a Native American food. History of Grits tells us that Sir Walter Raleigh and his men were likely offered a dish much like today’s grits in 1584 by Native Americans local to what’s now Roanoke, Virginia.
At Lucky’s we take pride in our grits, whether they are deep-fried, twice-baked or just plain creamy. We hope our friends who want to give grits a try for the first time—and those who are already fans—stop by to taste our versions. We don’t just serve them at brunch, you can get them at lunch and dinner too!
As venerable as their history is, our Deep Fried Grit Cakes were inspired a little closer to home (and just a bit more recently!). As Nancy King Quaintance’s mother, Joan King, tells it, laughing:
“On our honeymoon at Holden Beach, I was going to make my first meal. Jim asked me to make grits with dinner, but I didn’t know how to make them and the bag of grits didn’t come with directions. I thought to myself, oh this will be easy, just make them like rice. In the process of learning, I made the mistake of adding way too many grits and not enough water, and Jim had no idea either (we were very young when we got married). Not only did I end up with a LOT of leftover grits, the grits ended up all over the ceiling, walls and cabinets as they bubbled everywhere! There were pots and pots of grits leftover. When I wondered what to do with them all, Jim told me about how his Aunt Fanny refrigerated leftover grits and used them the next day to make grits cakes.”
In fact, Jim King’s family had a long tradition of grits-based cuisine, from the standard porridge-like preparation to fried grits cakes— a family favorite known today as “Fanny Grits.” In times of hardship from the Civil War though the Great Depression, grits—like rice and potatoes—were an inexpensive, filling staple in kitchens across the Deep South. Frugal cooks would not waste any leftovers, but instead re-purpose them in new dishes later the same day or the next.
The most recent addition to the family’s recipe history is courtesy of the late Fanny Nicholson, who was one of Nancy King Quaintance’s grandfather’s cousins—that’s a mouth full. Reportedly a fantastic cook, Fanny concocted her special soufflé-like grits recipe as a way to use leftovers and stretch supplies longer for a large extended family. The recipe is still a staple of King family meals and a frequent and beloved side dish at family gatherings.
Let us note that the Old Mill of Guilford, the local grist mill that we get our grits from, has been around since 1767. The Old Mill has been operating since the 1970s, making it a true Guilford County icon. Folks driving north on Highway 68 through Oak Ridge, NC, can see the mill’s big red waterwheel spinning out in front, and visitors are always welcome. It’s worth a trip up the road to see how the Old Mill operates and pick up some flour, cornmeal, pancake mix or other delectable from the store there. (Old Mill products also are available all over town, too, at places like the Greensboro Farmers Curb Market.)
Now that you know where to get your grits in Guilford County, what do you do with them? Here are a couple of recipes, from our kitchen to yours. We’ll start with our basic recipe for Creamy Yellow Grits, then show you how to deep-fry them or serve them up with shrimp in a way that’ll have the whole neighborhood coming over for a taste! (And if you’re feeling experimental, why not try the aforementioned Fanny Grits. Yes, they are that delicious!)
Lucky 32 Creamy Yellow Grits
12 fl. oz. heavy whipping cream
3 c. water
¾ stick butter
¾ tsp. salt (or to taste)
1/8 tsp. cracked black pepper (or to taste)
1 c. yellow grits
½ c. grated sharp cheddar cheese
Add cream, water, butter, salt and pepper to sauce pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and stir in the grits. Stir with wire whisk continuously to keep grits from clumping up. Once all the grits are blended, continue to stir for 2-3 minutes. Reduce heat and cook for about 15- 20 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cheddar cheese.
makes 1 quart
Lucky 32 Shrimp and Grits
2 tbsp. olive oil or butter
4 tbsp. chopped green onions
1¾ lbs. large shrimp, peeled and deveined
¾ lb. Andouille sausage
1¼ c. Tasso Gravy (see recipe below)
Creamy Grits (see recipe above)
Heat oil in sauté pan, then sauté half of the green onion. Add sausage, cook, then add shrimp and cook until done. Add Tasso Gravy, tossing to coat and heat all the way through. Place serving of hot Creamy Grits in pasta bowls and pour a portion of the shrimp mixture over the grits. Garnish each dish with remaining green onions.
makes 4 servings
Lucky 32 Tasso Gravy
1 tbsp. butter
¼ c. diced onions
½ tsp. thyme
1 c. Tasso ham – diced
½ tsp. salt (or to taste)
1 c. chicken stock
¼ c. roux (make with equal parts butter and flour: melt butter in small pan, add flour, stir to thicken, remove from heat)
1 tsp. chopped parsley (optional)
Melt butter, then add onions and thyme, sautéing gently until very soft and caramelized. Add Tasso and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring regularly to distribute seasoning. Add chicken stock and salt, bring to simmer, then cook 10 minutes. Stir in roux and simmer 10 more minutes. Remove from heat, stir in parsley. Serve.
Lucky 32 Deep Fried Grit Cakes
2 c. chicken stock
1 c. heavy cream
1½ tbsp. butter
1 c. stone ground grits
1 c. grated cheddar cheese
3 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese
1-2 eggs, beaten (1 large or 2 small)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1/4 c. cornmeal
1/4 c. flour
1/2 tbsp. Cajun spices
oil for deep frying
In a large sauce pot, bring chicken stock, heavy cream and butter to a boil. Stir in grits and reduce to medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until grits are cooked and liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and stir in cheeses, beaten eggs, salt and pepper. Spread mixture onto a greased sheet pan or cookie sheet and cool completely. Grits may be refrigerated overnight. When cooled, cut grits into desired shape and set aside. Meanwhile, blend cornmeal, flour and Cajun spices in a shallow baking dish. Heat oil for deep frying to 350º F. Dredge grit cakes in cornmeal mixture and fry in hot oil until brown on both sides. Drain fried grits on paper towels.
King Family “Fanny Grits” Recipe
1 – 1½ c. plain cooked grits (leftovers or freshly made)
½ to 1 c. of milk
approx. 1/2 c. Cheddar or other cheese of your choice
Beat eggs with a beater and add a pinch or two of salt, then add in the grits. The mixture should have a consistency similar to pancake batter. If you want to add cheese, add grated cheese. Pour into a casserole dish and bake as you would a soufflé in a slow oven (around 325º F) until just set. The mixture will puff up, then collapse while cooling.
Makes 4-6 servings as a side dish
Disclaimer: All our recipes were originally designed for much larger batch size. This recipe has been reduced – but not tested at this scale. Please adjust as to your taste and portion size.
Did you know that the average American produce travels 1,500 miles before it lands on your table? The fewer the miles on a car, the less the wear and tear on the vehicle (and the greater its value). Similarly, the fewer the miles fresh produce travels before being consumed, the better it tastes and the less impact on the environment it makes. This is why many Americans are adopting the “100 Mile Diet,” which promotes eating fresh local foods within 100 miles to insure peak freshness and nutritional value.
It’s like we say, the nearer the farm to the fork, the better the flavor.
Here are just a few reasons why:
A recent study showed that all locally grown food combined still produced less carbon dioxide emissions in transport than a single imported produce item.
Carbon emissions won’t directly influence tonight’s dinner, but how long it takes for food to get to your table can affect its taste. From the moment produce is harvested, it’s a race against time to get it to your table. Produce and raw foods have a short shelf life, which makes the long-distance travel a challenge.
Many suppliers have processes that extend the shelf life of fresh foods, but these methods can prevent the produce from developing their full, broad range of vitamins and minerals, making them less nutrient-dense and flavorful than local foods.
So, if you want to consider going on the 100 Mile Diet or reduce your carbon footprint, the Greensboro Curb Market is a great place to start. All of their vendors, such as Smith Farms, are located within 100 miles of the market, ensuring that you have access to the freshest local produce when you shop at the Curb Market.
Every Tuesday through Thursday during their growing season, you can spot the Smith Farms Mobile Market. They pack up their produce and take it to six different locations across Guilford and Alamance counties, including the Curb Market and Piedmont Triad Farmer’s Market, as well as local hospitals and restaurants (like none other than Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen in Greensboro). They feature squash, zucchini, cucumbers, green beans, peppers, various field peas, October beans, butter beans, potatoes and tomatoes (even vine-ripened tomatoes up until frost). This fall look for sweet potatoes and soon they’ll have cabbage and broccoli.
The folks at Smith Farms believe that in order to get fresh produce from the field and onto a plate, you have to move it quickly – which means the farmer needs to have outlet options every day of the week. Some of their produce gets harvested and packaged daily (squash, zucchini and cucumbers), while others are harvested two to three times a week (tomatoes, corn, beans). Smith Farms work diligently six days a week to ensure that fresh-picked produce is available for you to enjoy. At Lucky’s, you can savor a variety of their fresh produce in our menu items that range from a side of Smith Farms’ corn to summer squash with roasted tomato sauce; on your way out, take home their zucchini, squash, tomatoes and pink-eyed peas, by stopping by our Veggie Cart.
Squash with Roasted Tomato Sauce
3 tablespoons butter
2 pounds zucchini
2 pounds yellow squash
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups Roasted Tomato Sauce (see recipe)
Wash squash and slice into ½ inch half moons.
Heat butter (or canola oil) in a large sauté pan. Add squash and gently turn to
coat with butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper, gently turning to combine.
Add Roasted Tomato Sauce and gently turn to evenly distribute the sauce.
Continue to turn until vegetables are just starting to soften.
Makes 8-10 portions
Roasted Tomato Sauce
2½ pounds fresh tomatoes
4 cloves garlic
2 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
2-3 fluid ounces canola oil
salt and pepper to taste
Wash tomatoes and remove the stems. Slice tomatoes in half horizontally and place in a large mixing bowl. Add remaining ingredients to the bowl and toss until tomatoes are well coated in oil, herbs and seasoning.
Place tomatoes on a sheet tray, cut side down. Pour remaining oil and seasoning over
tomatoes. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10-12 minutes or until tomatoes are soft. Remove from oven. Remove and discard garlic cloves. With a whisk, break up tomatoes.
Makes 2½ cups
Disclaimer: All our recipes were originally designed for much larger batch size. This recipe has been reduced – but not tested at this scale. Please adjust to your taste and portion size.
Summer is finally here! Taking my child to camp in Eastern NC recently brought back memories of the picnics our family enjoyed on many car trips to the coast. Mom always had the cooler at hand for impromptu excursions, and she came up with easy, quick recipes that she whipped up like magic. Our family car was always (and still is) loaded up ready for a picnic at a moment’s notice.
On road trips, we would bypass the many restaurants and rest stops. Instead, we opted for stops at tiny roadside churches — where there always was a picnic table in the shade, welcoming folk and a playground to get the wiggles out — or the beautiful state parks along the way. And boy…Mom was ready to whip up a farm-to-fork snack right there in the parking lot when we happened upon a road-side stand.
We all have fond memories of picnics and tailgating with family, friends or a romantic interest. So we thought we’d share some yummy, fast recipes that incorporate the bounty of summer and travel well to your ultimate picnic spot. Get out there and make your own memories!
Heirloom Tomato Appetizer
½ pound variety of heirloom tomatoes, sliced
1 pinch sea salt
1 pinch freshly cracked black pepper
1 fluid ounce Herb Vinaigrette (see recipe below)
1 ounce Goat Lady chèvre
Slice tomatoes and place them on a serving plate. Sprinkle tomatoes with salt and pepper. Drizzle Herb Vinaigrette over tomatoes, and then sprinkle with goat cheese. Makes 1 portion.
Pack recipe ingredients separately in your cooler, and then combine them when you get to your picnic. That way your tomatoes won’t get mushy on the way.
Cut your heirloom tomatoes at home, marry the pieces back together again in the shape of a ball and bind with a few rubber bands. Then, combine all ingredients when you get to your picnic destination.
Herb Vinaigrette (make at home and bring in a squeeze bottle)
1 cup white vinegar
1 tbsp dried tarragon
¼ cup minced red onion
1 tbsp granulated sugar
2 tsp salt (or to taste)
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
3 cups canola oil
½ cup minced fresh basil
½ cup minced fresh flat leaf parsley
Combine all ingredients except oil and herbs in a saucepan, and heat while whisking until sugar is dissolved and Dijon is incorporated. Pour mixture into a blender and slowly add oil until well combined. Stir in herbs. Makes 1 quart.
Curried Chicken Salad
2 pounds diced roasted chicken
1/8 cup diced red onions
¼ cup diced celery
¾ cup mayonnaise
½ tbsp curry powder
1/8 cup chopped fresh mint
1/8 cup chopped fresh parsley
¾ cup lemon juice
salt & pepper to taste
In a large bowl, mix all ingredients (except chicken) until well blended. Add chicken and mix thoroughly. Makes 4 cups.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, blend flour, baking powder and salt. In a double boiler, melt the chocolate chips while stirring. In a mixing bowl, combine brown sugar, eggs and vanilla. Mixture should turn light brown in color when done (about 5 minutes on medium speed). Add melted chocolate and melted butter to egg mixture and then add that mixture to the flour mixture, blending well with a spatula. Add walnuts, stirring to incorporate. Pour mixture into a greased pan. Bake in 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes. Makes 6 large brownies.
Tips for a fun and easy picnic:
Keep the car packed with the essentials: blanket, basket or backpack to carry it all in, wet wipes, paring knife, wine tool, chairs (if needed) and an empty Tupperware container (you’ll use it for something).
Think ahead of any road trip — bring along some basic ingredients in a cooler, and supplement them with roadside stand produce. (Here are some of our favorites: hard cheeses, olive oil, French bread, cured meats, capers, smoked salmon, olives and a few basic herbs and/or spices. Take our suggestions or add your own favorites!)
Choose an ant-free, soft, grassy spot at a park, church or school. Many rest stops have lovely picnic areas in the shade.
Pack a big blanket (the bigger the better — it helps prevent those pesky bugs from climbing on).
Bring along a small pillow to lie back on while you watch clouds go by, take a nap or stay late for a romantic star gaze!
Flashlights and citronella candles are important for evening picnics. And don’t forget the bug spray, especially when the mosquitoes are out.
Be sure to clean up after yourself — leftover foods, drinks and trash can attract wildlife to picnic areas, which isn’t safe for the animals or picnickers!
There you have it: A few of our recipes and tips for delightful and yummy summer picnics. Load up your car with family and friends (or a romantic rendezvous) and take off to explore the back roads and popular destinations near you. With a few simple recipes and a little forethought, you can avoid the fast food trap and enjoy a tasty, farm-to-fork meal while en route.
Contributing Writer: Virginia Phelps
These recipes are available on our Suddenly This Summer menu at Lucky’s through August 4. See the menu.
Spring’s Bounty of Fresh, Local Vegetables and Fruits
As winter’s grasp eases and the temperatures begin to rise, the availability of locally sourced food increases, expanding menus and creativity in the kitchen. We know this is an incredibly exciting time of the year for us—as it is for other chefs and avid home cooks.
For months now, farmers markets and “local availability lists” have suffered from the annual winter slump. Offerings have primarily consisted of turnips, mustard greens and kale greens, alongside year-round collards, sweet potatoes and peanuts. While hearty root vegetables and greens are a staple of Southern cuisine, our locally sourced, seasonally rotating menu at Lucky’s gets a boost when spring fruits and vegetables begin to appear. Put it this way: Creating menus with winter produce is fun, kind of like like driving a Model T … but spring produce season is a blast, more like driving a Ferrari!
A few weeks ago, as we perused the rows of radishes and asparagus at the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle Teaching Farm in Cary, we started to get excited about the possibilities to come. We picked a crisp, green spear right out of the earth, dusted it off on a pant leg and eagerly bit into the freshest produce possible. Our creativity was recharged instantly, and ideas for new menu items flashed through our minds.
We got even more excited when Jesse Crouch and his brother Dustin (both incubator farmers at the IFFS farm and owners of NC Regrown Farm) told us they had just planted rows of okra alongside their colorful radishes. Other IFFS farmers are planting broccoli, cabbages, herbs, heirloom tomatoes, red and golden beets and sugar snap peas to be ready in a few weeks. And on the horizon, we can expect to see more local fruits taking center stage, from watermelons and cantaloupes to peaches, plums and berries. Oh, the possibilities!
All of these colorful and delicious selections definitely will make it onto our menu, helping us maintain our 10% NC Promise: All Quaintance-Weaver restaurants promise to source, at minimum, 10% of their food purchases from local farms and farmers. This program is designed to give back to the community that allows our places to thrive.
We just can’t wait for that okra – and those plums – to be ready!
Enjoy the same fresh, local vegetables that we offer by picking some up from our Veggie Cart on your way out! Our carts offer everything from greens, to potatoes, to honey! They’re always parked either on our front sidewalk or in our entry way, and operate by an honor system for payment. Bon appetit!
These days more and more people are shopping at farmers’ markets and while it’s not feasible to expect to get everything you need there, the farmers’ market is your best bet for finding the freshest, most seasonal food in your area.
We’ve lost touch with the origin of our food and what we’re eating— its journey from the farm to our plate. We eat apples that have lived in a truck for the better part of a week, instead of apples just picked in the next county over and we eat conventional tomatoes in December instead of fresh ones in July. But we’re finding our way back.
Going to the farmer’s market is about a human connection—the relationships we form with the people growing our food. They’re not hiding behind a colorful ad on a box or a long, indecipherable ingredient list. They’re at the market and they’re ready to meet us. And now is as good a time to go as any.
It’s good to get in touch with what’s fresh and in season. A varied, colorful diet is key to good nutrition and knowing what’s in season and how to properly care for your food are valuable tools to navigating the farmers’ market. Here are a few tips for successfully making your way through the market.
Lucky 32’s Guide to Navigating the Farmer’s Market
Go early! You know what they say, the early bird gets the worm. So get out of that bed and down to the market!
Bring cash. Some vendors have caught onto the new card reader fad but many still aren’t that equipped. Even for the vendors that do carry them, it’s still a rather pricey transaction so cash is always best. If you forget cash, the market may have an ATM, but be advised, it’ll probably charge you extra.
Think about what makes you hungry. Look for inspiration as you peruse the market and let what’s available guide you rather than an ingredient list for a specific recipe. That will determine what meal you’re going to make. Think outside the box and get creative—try something you’ve never tried before! Shopping at the market should be fun, not stressful!
Quality is worth it. Some items at the farmers’ market may cost more than at the grocery, but those fresh local strawberries are always going to taste better than the ones shipped from California.
Ask questions. Engage the farmer in conversation—ask questions like, “did you grow this,” and, “what is the best way to keep this fresh?” Knowing how to take care of food is paramount in avoiding waste and making the most of your bounty. Don’t be intimidated by produce that’s foreign to you. If you’ve never tried sunchokes before, you probably don’t have the faintest clue what to do with them. So ask the farmer to recommend something for you. Chances are, they’re going to have some good ideas and they’ll be glad you asked.
Research your markets. Be wary of re-sellers—not all farmers’ markets are producer-only markets, which means you may as well be shopping at a grocery store. Not all produce is organic or free of pesticides either, so if it’s not specific, then ask.