It’s a Christmas miracle: sizzling grit cakes with rarified roast beef, creamy horseradish and Asiago.

sizzling grt cake with rare roast beef, asiago, horseradish

This year I prepared Christmas dinner, our first back in the Lowcountry. Over the week or so leading up to the big day I also made several of my usual holiday recipes – “fantasy” fudge (yes, I use jarred Fluff), cut out cookies (Martha Stewart recipe) and I dry-aged a well marbled, choice rib roast. This is about the sixth time I have attempted the ‘dry aging’ treatment on a rib roast, and I think it came out the best ever this year – rarified beef indeed!

I like rib roast or lamb for Christmas dinner, ham for Easter and turkey for Thanksgiving. But I am not one to be overly traditional, so if I have some duck or even a nice venison tenderloin, either would be more than satisfactory for such an occasion as Christmas dinner. This year, though, it was rib roast. I aged it for 72 hours following the method of Alton Brown. I have a leave-in digital meat thermometer and it served its purpose perfectly. We enjoyed a wonderful rib roast cooked rare/medium rare as our main course and I happily packed a decent portion back into the frig afterwards.

Apparently I also had my thinking cap on this Christmas as I made a pot of grits Christmas morning for my daughter and myself (Dear Hubby still insists he doesn’t like grits) and I made extra for grit cakes. Now, I use the term ‘cake’ loosely as the congealed, sliced grits are not at all the consistency of a cake and that’s just how I like them. I’ve had restaurant grit cakes that are heavier than mine, and can be used almost like a cracker…or a hockey puck. Personally I like grit cakes to taste great, not just serve as a miniature, flavorless ‘plate’ for holding toppings. So my grit cakes are not portable – they need to be served warm, on a plate them selves and accompanied by a fork.

So, I have my grit cakes and I have my rare, tender roast beef. I also saved the bacon drippings from the Christmas morning breakfast. Easy enough to pair the roast beef with some horseradish (and I have a jar in the frig!). What else would be delicious with this combo? I do have a hunk of Asiago in the cheese drawer…I wonder?

But I did more than wonder. I put myself back to work in the kitchen to make these ‘snackies’. Leftovers never tasted so good! But that is not the miracle.Read on…

Dear Hubby noticed the aroma of bacon and asked, “What are you making?” I replied, “Oh just something for the blog.” He then heard the frying pan sizzling and saw me shaving some Asiago cheese. As he sat down with a glass of ale from his growler (a gift from me) I asked if he was up for taste testing. He said, “Sure!” and I lifted a fork to his mouth, casually mentioning that there were grits involved. But it was to late for him to resist, as all the flavors on the fork were already melding together in his mouth. I heard him fight back a “yumm” type sound as I wistfully asked, “What do you think? Do you like it? Think it’s good enough for the blog?”

His reaction of “Yes, it’s good.”  but included little enthusiasm. In a few minutes I added, “I can make some more up on a plate…if you’d like.” Surprisingly he answered, “Okay.” I proceeded to make him two more small plates. As I sat eating a few bites myself, he added, “This is definitely ‘blog worthy’. It’s really quite good”.

So as my Dear Hubby scraped the last morsel off his plate I thought, “Christmas is truly a time for miracles!” After almost 8 years of the ‘no grits, no way, no time’ I’ve broken through the no grits barrier, once as stubborn as the overcooked, leftover grits in the bottom of a thin, aluminum pot.

These grits may be slathered in bacon grease and topped with tender beef and tangy Asiago, but they’re still grits… and as the state of South Carolina wrote in 1976 when grits was declared the official state food:

Whereas, throughout its history, the South has relished its grits, making them a symbol of its diet, its customs, its humor, and its hospitality, and whereas, every community in the State of South Carolina used to be the site of a grist mill and every local economy in the State used to be dependent on its product; and whereas, grits has been a part of the life of every South Carolinian of whatever race, background, gender, and income; and whereas, grits could very well play a vital role in the future of not only this State, but also the world, if, as The Charleston News and Courier proclaimed in 1952: ‘An inexpensive, simple, and thoroughly digestible food, [grits] should be made popular throughout the world. Given enough of it, the inhabitants of planet Earth would have nothing to fight about. A man* full of [grits] is a man of peace.’

As for me, I’ll take this little ‘miracle’. May the grits of peace be with you and happy holidays!

* or woman

dry aged rib roast

Here is the leftover dry-aged rib roast.

dry aged beef rib roast slices

Slice the rib roast when it is cold and then allow the slices to reach room temperature (or almost).

grit slices, grit cakes

Slice the congealed grits into about 1/2 inch thick slices. You could also use ramekins or even a large loaf pan. If doubling the recipe, use a lined and oiled jelly roll pan.Then just cut out squares of grits.

Brown the grits slices in bacon grease (or butter or a high heat oil like grape oil). However use a NONSTICK pan. Believe me, you'll be glad you did.  Also clear away children from the immediate cooking area and use a splatter screen!

Brown the grits slices in bacon grease (or butter or a high heat oil like grape oil). However, use a NONSTICK pan. Believe me, you’ll be glad you did. Also clear away children from the immediate cooking area and use a splatter screen!

grit cakes

Gently turn each grit cake over and allow to brown. Remove to a warm platter or individual plates. Then add more grease/oil/butter, heat the pan and brown up the rest of the grit cakes.

creamy horseradish sauce

Mix mayo with prepared horseradish and a few cracks of fresh pepper. Use homemade mayo or store bought. Of course my store brand of choice is Duke’s.

warm grit cakes with rare roast beef, horseradish cream and asiago.

Once all the parts of this ‘snackie’ are assembled put it all together: grit cake, then roast beef, a dollop of horseradish cream and a shave or two of Asiago cheese. That’s it!

Sizzling grit cakes with roast beef, creamy horseradish, and shaved Asiago cheese

  • 2 cups cooked grits (see my recipe)
  • vegetable cooking spray
  • 2 tbl bacon grease/drippings (or butter or grape oil)
  • tender roast beef – cooked medium rare to rare (rib roast, beef tenderloin), chilled
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 ½ tsp prepared horseradish
  • several cracks of fresh pepper
  • shaved Asiago cheese

Prepare grits per my previous recipe or as you see fit. The grits should be on the thick side (rather than thin and runny). Prepare two mini loaf pans, round ramekins or any container you think would make a good mould for sliced grits. Line pan(s) with foil and spray lightly with oil.

Pour half the warm, cooked grits into each pan and set in the refrigerator to congeal. Cover ad allow to cool completely – at least 2 hours or overnight.

Meanwhile cut small, very thin slices of beef from the cold roast beef. Set aside shaved roast beef to allow it  reach room temperature (or close to it). In a small bowl mix the mayo, horseradish and cracked pepper. Feel free to adjust the amount of horseradish to your taste. Set aside.

When grits have congealed, remove from the ‘moulds’ and slice into ½ inch thick pieces. Heat 1 tablespoon bacon grease in a non-stick sauté or frying pan to very hot (but not smoking). Add half the sliced grits and cook for about 2 minutes per side or until a nice crust has formed. Note that the grits will sputter and pop so using a  frying screen will help protect your arms and hands as tiny, sizzling hot grits will fly at you. Remove the grit slices to plates and keep warm while you finish frying the rest of the sliced grits with 1 more tablespoon of bacon grease (or butter or grape oil).

Plate this up with 3 slices per person as a first course: top each grit cake with roast beef, then a dollop of horseradish mayo and then a shave of Asiago cheese. Serves 4 with 3 slices per person. This recipe can be doubled.


Grits are “groceries” – why yes, they are!

Stone-ground grits, not so plain but simple to make.

To many Southerners grits are a revered food, akin to barbeque in that most everyone has their favorite brand of grits or preference of white grits over yellow grits or vice versa, or “special” preparation technique. My own father, who was a child of the Depression (the real one) had a funny saying, “grits are groceries”, which to him meant they filled up your belly and are good enough to have at any meal. Good quality, properly prepared grits can make a meal.

Basically grits are the same thing as polenta (if you are familiar) but technically they are not the same. Grits can be either stone ground or hominy style, dried corn that treated with an alkali in a process and then ground. I am not  a hominy-grits lover really, I prefer mine stone-ground. According to Anson Mills (located right here in South Carolina) grits and polenta are made from two different types of corn. Here is their explanation:

“Dent or Flint? Corn is classified by the type of starch (endosperm) in its kernels. The premier mill corn of the American South, known as dent (the name derives from the dent that forms on the top of each kernel as it dries), has a relatively soft, starchy center. Dent corn makes easy work of milling – it also makes phenomenal grits.

Flint corn, by contrast, has a hard, starchy endosperm and produces grittier, more granular meal that offers an outstanding mouth-feel when cooked. One type of American flint – indigenous to the Northeast – was, and remains, the traditional choice for Johnny cakes. 
In Italy, flint has been the preeminent polenta corn since the 16th century when Spanish and Portuguese treasure hunters brought Caribbean flint to the Piedmont on ships.”

So there you go. I also have been told that in Italy, polenta can also include other grains besides corn. The grind for polenta is finer than that for grits and the cooking technique is also different. So yes, polenta is ground corn – as are grits – but they are not the same thing.

As far as brands of grits, I have eaten many different brands of both white and yellow varieties and I’m open to trying ones I find during stops at road-side stands or country stores. My mother buys Jim Dandy brand grits – the white type and obviously that is the type I grew up eating. After I flew the coop, I stuck to Jim Dandy mostly, but Quaker and Adluh brands found their way into my pantry. (Adluh is a local South Carolina mill and they make very good products but can be hard to locate as they not carried much out of SC. See the side bar for a link).

In my twenties, I was gifted some stone ground grits from Nora Mill, located in Helen, Georgia. I have been lucky to try both their white speckled grits nicknamed “Georgia Ice Cream” and their yellow speckled variety over the years – all are delicious! Once I tried stone-ground grits it was impossible to go back to anything else. Sorry Jim Dandy!

When we lived in Alabama I purchased McEwen & Sons (Wilsonville, AL) stone ground grits and found they were also quite good. Their products are organic and they even sell blue stone ground grits. My current pound bag o’grits is from Palmetto Farms located in historic Galivants Ferry, SC. This is a 3rd generation mill operation that began in the 1930’s. I enjoyed the texture and corn flavor of these grits so I’ll be buying more of these in the future.

“Grits Tips”

  • Use stone ground grits: If you live in the South and your grocer has a “locally grown” section see if they carry grits milled nearby. If not, order a pound of grits online from any of the purveyors I mention above.
  • Keep your grits cold: Freezing in fact. Grits are best stored in an air tight bag/container in the freezer.
  • Do not buy instant grits: Friends do not let friends buy and eat (pluh!) instant grits, for obvious reasons…
  • Cooking: Even if your grits are “quick cooking”, cook longer than advised on the instructions. A pot of grits needs at least 20 minutes of slow cooking (and stirring) after the initial boil.
  • Salt: If you add cheese and/or stock to your grits do not salt them until very near the end of cooking. Otherwise you could end up with some salty grits.
  • Have fun with your grits! Once you have the basic cooking technique down, experiment and try grits with cheese or fresh mushrooms or better yet mushrooms and cheese! Add herbs, sausage, or vegetables – whatever you think would tempt your palate.
  • Grits aren’t just for breakfast: Although they are delicious in the morning try them for supper with grilled fish, seafood, roast pork or game, like quail. Pan roasted quail was a favorite of mine when I was younger. Add my Mom’s creamy pan gravy and a biscuit and the post-hunt sideboard was complete.

A bag of lovely stone-ground grits from Palmetto Farms. Keep your grits in the freezer, they stay fresher that way!

Add the grits to the hot – and soon to be boiling – water/stock liquid. Get ready to stir.

After about 8 minutes the grits are still rough, not broken down much yet. Add some more liquid and stir.

After another 10-12 minutes (total of 20 minutes) of cooking , stirring and adding more liquid, the grits are creamier and close to being ready. You could keep cooking these all day if you liked – adding more liquid and stirring. They will just get creamier.

Add the cream just prior to seasoning. My daddy always added milk or cream to his grits; my mother does not. It’s a personal matter, I suppose…

Pouring the grits into the bowl you can see the creamy goodness! These grits are plain but you if you like, stir in cheese or sausage or bacon or chopped green onions or a combination of whatever you prefer. Grits are a non-partisan food!

Recognize this image from a couple of weeks ago? Nestled beneath the crunchy fried okra and tender, mustard roasted pork loin is a pool of creamy grits.


  • ½ heaping cup stone ground grits
  • 1 1/2 cup plus extra water
  • 1 cup vegetable or chicken stock or broth
  • 1/3 cup plus light cream
  • salt & pepper

In a medium saucepan with a lid, heat 1 cup of water and 1 cup of stock. Stir or whisk in the grits. Bring to a boil and then turn heat down to low. Place lid on the saucepan and allow to cook on very low heat for 8 minutes or so. Stir grits and add water (1/4 cup). Allow to cook with lid on for another 5 minutes. Stir again and add more water (1/4 cup). Allow to cook 5 more minutes and stir. Add more water of necessary. Cook another 2-3 minutes* with the lid off until the consistency is a little thicker than you prefer. Stir in the light cream and season with salt & pepper to taste. Serve immediately. Makes approximately 2 cups of cooked grits. This recipe can be double, tripled, or quadrupled.

* At this point you can continue slow cooking the grits all day if you like – just keeping add more water (or other liquid) and stirring every so often. If you allow the grits to cool they will congeal, however.