It may only be Wednesday but I’m already thinking about the weekend. And nothing screams “weekend!” more than an elaborate brunch and acres of time in which to consume it. A mimosa helps too but I suppose it’s not mandatory. So even though its Wednesday, I urge you to conjure up a Saturday or Sunday-like attitude. These Cheesy Grits with Roasted Oyster Mushrooms deserve that. They’re far too good for a mid-week nosh, so please, delete hump day from your mind and pretend your on a seaside deck with nothing but the water and a blissfully blank schedule stretching out before you.
Summer weekends are a special breed. Summer, in general, is pretty laid back, so summertime weekends are basically mini-vacations. Add the fact that we have precious few of them a year, and you’re left with decadent weekends planned within an inch of their life. This year we’re putting less emphasis on our summertime bucket list and trying to stay in the moment. This seems like a healthier approach given how much planning has to go into even regular summertime activities in this COVID world. But one thing I’ll never stop plotting and planning is summertime brunch.
Now, for those of you who are well acquainted with grits, you might be wondering why I’m making a big deal about making them. While it is true that grits aren’t difficult to make, they are slightly time-consuming. Grits require a minimum of 20 minutes of simmering on the stove. I consider grits to be a brunch food because I would never spend 20 minutes on breakfast. In fact, I don’t even eat breakfast most days, except maybe an apple. So, if you see me firing up the stove before 11 am, you know I’m putting in a brunch-level effort.
So, the good news is this brunch is delicious and, frankly, easy to pull off. Way easier than Eggs Benedict. The bad news is it’s hard to stop eating cheesy grits. In the Southern United States where grits are celebrated and made on the regular, they can be sweet or savory. Now, I’ve never had sweetened grits and I’m not liable to anytime soon. I cannot say no to savory grits so sweet’s never gonna get the chance. I have no self-control when it comes to cheesy grits and hot sauce. Grits may be filling but that won’t stop me from eating as much as I’m physically able to, which is a surprising amount given my stature.
But in spite of their association with the modern and classic soul food, grits have been consumed for countless centuries. The Europeans were introduced to grits in the 16th century by the Muskogee, an indigenous tribe that was native to what is now southern Tennessee, all of Alabama, western Georgia, and part of northern Florida. The European settlers developed a taste for the dish and it became one of the first foods to be dubbed “American”. Grits are now largely considered the backbone of Southern cuisine and their connection to the Muskogee is rarely mentioned.
I’m not trying to scold anyone by bringing up the origins of what we call grits. I am simply making an effort to attribute food innovations to the innovators responsible. I think the more we acknowledge the diverse contributions of numerous cultures to our modern and celebrated dishes, the more we will respect one another. Food isn’t created in a vacuum, a cuisine is forged via multiple hands and points of view. And what’s more, food is not fixed – there is no start point or endpoint, no right, and no wrong. So, I don’t bring up the origins of ingredients to designate ownership and thus limit who has the right to play with them. It is merely an acknowledgment of where they come from – a culinary bibliography if you will. Okay, serious stuff over.
I mentioned earlier that this brunch is a snap to pull off and I meant it. Other than keeping an eye on your grits, this brunch requires little more than preheating the oven. You’re going to roast your oyster mushrooms to keep your stovetop blissfully uncluttered. And once the grits and mushrooms are done, the bowl is simply decorated with greens, hot sauce (of course), and a custardy egg. Now, a word about the egg. When it comes time to peel that semi-soft boiled egg, you’re going to have to check your type A personality at the door. Trust me, I speak from experience, you’re going to kill your chill if you sweat every knick you inflict on the egg and that’s just not what summertime brunch is about.
So that’s everything you need to know about these Cheesy Grits with Roasted Oyster Mushrooms. It tastes like a lazy summer morning and requires little more than some light stirring. It’s basically a vacation in a bowl.
Cheesy Grits with Roasted Oyster Mushrooms
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups milk
- 1 cup white or yellow grits
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 cup sharp cheddar heaping
- Fresh ground pepper
Roasted Oyster Mushrooms
- 100g (3.5 oz) oyster mushrooms mushrooms separated, wooden ends removed
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- ½ tsp salt
- 4 eggs
- 1 batch Cheesy Grits see above
- 1 batch Roasted Oyster Mushrooms see above
- 1 cup spring greens washed and dried
- ½ cup pea shoots
- vinegar-based hot sauce for serving
For the Grits
- Whisk the water, milk, and salt together in a small saucepan. Place over medium heat until just about to boil. Gradually whisk in the grits, stirring constantly to prevent the grits from clumping. Once the grits are incorporated, reduce the heat to low and cook for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Once the grits are thick and glossy, take them off of the heat and add the butter and cheese and stir until melted. Add several grinds of fresh ground pepper and stir to integrate. Keep the grits warm until ready to serve.
For the Mushrooms
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Drizzle a baking sheet with 1 tbsp of the olive oil. Use a pastry to brush to evenly distribute the oil across the baking sheet. Arrange the mushrooms on the baking sheet and drizzle with the remaining oil and sprinkle them with the salt.
- Transfer the mushrooms to the oven and roast for 15 minutes or until the edges are brown and frizzled. Take them out of the oven and keep warm until ready to serve.
For the Bowls
- Place the eggs in a saucepan and cover them with cold water. Place the pan over high heat and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and let the eggs sit for 7-8 minutes. Transfer the eggs to an ice bath and let sit for at least 10 minutes. Once the 10 minutes are up, peel the eggs and set them aside.
- Divide the grits into 4 bowls. Top each bowl with the Roasted Oyster Mushrooms and spring greens. Cut the eggs in half and arrange two halves on each bowl. Add a few dashes of hot sauce and a handful of pea shoots and serve immediately.