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.


[Remembering] a white Christmas in June with tasty shrimp dip

Even though summer isn’t official until June 20th, here along the coast of South Carolina we’ve had summer-like weather for a couple of months. School is out and a tropical storm passed within shout’ in distance in May. And while we haven’t landed any monster crabs yet off our community dock, local commercial shrimpers have been filling their nets for several weeks and a neighbor of ours hauled in a couple of beautiful red drum (known around here as redfish or reds) over the weekend.

Thinking about all this ocean bounty started me thing about…Christmas. Yes, I realize this makes no sense, as Christmas is in December and that means winter and cold weather (even here). Let me explain…

There are a few recipes for which I have a claim to fame, if you will. Well, I use the term ‘fame’ loosely, as the scope of my celebrité reaches the farthest corners of… family cookouts and neighborhood potlucks. Nevertheless, my shrimp dip is probably my most-requested dish.

This recipe goes back, way back – to 1989. It was created out of necessity and a snowstorm, if you can believe it. I was staying with one of my sisters and her family on the isle of Hilton Head and it was Christmas time. While I was supposed to head up to my parent’s home and my sister was supposed to travel to her in-laws in Pinehurst, NC the weather took an odd turn, with frigid temperatures and icy conditions shutting down parts of the Interstate 95 corridor. We could not travel so we went into emergency mode and stayed put at home

After running to the Piggly Wiggly on an emergency supply run, we settled in for a long winter’s nap and woke up to about 4 or 5 inches of the fluffy white stuff and no hot water. While the power was on, a pipe burst and we were without hot water. Oh well, we made due with what we had or were able to purchase the day before. My brother-in-law mentioned he had some shrimp fresh frozen so, “please try to make some kind of appetizer out it and whatever else you like.” Our family likes to snack but snack well, especially while we cook up the ‘main event’ for a holiday dinner. I was up to the challenge.

So I created this spread. The fresh parsley and lemon along with the shrimp really make this sing so I would not substitute or go for less than fresh on these items. Now I did state the shrimp were fresh frozen and they were tiny as well, if memory serves me. But they were locally caught, wild shrimp (not farmed) caught by my brother-in-law in month prior to being used in this recipe.

Letting the mixture sit makes a difference too. I made the inaugural concoction early in the day and it sat refrigerated for a few hours before being gobbled up, so the flavors had time to meld together. Lastly, I prefer noticeable chunks of shrimp in the dip so usually I roughly grind half the shrimp in the food processor and then chop the other half by hand to the perfect size – you’ll get shrimp in every bite!

This is a shrimp boat at the Bluffton Oyster Company. That big pile of shells are actually oyster shells, which will be recycled into paving and decorative building materials.

These are fresh, w-i-l-d shrimp for sale – yum! (This is Bluffton Oyster Company.)

A much smaller pile o’shrimp, ready to be lightly cooked.

Cooked shrimp have been drained and are ready to peel.

Chop the shrimp by hand or use a food processor – usually I use both so half the shrimp are finely minced and half are chopped.

I mix the cream cheese and mayo first and then add the other ingredients. I prefer homemade mayo but Duke’s is my first choice for store-bought.

Adding the hot sauce. I like Crystal or Tabasco but use your favorite!

Finally, fold in those delicious shrimp. Let the mixture rest in the refrigerator so the flavors meld – if you can keep your kids, your spouse, your friends and yourself from snatching samples!

Tasty Shrimp Dip

  • 1- 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup mayonnaise (preferably homemade)
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked shrimp, peeled with tails removed
  • 1 lemon
  • ¼ cup sweet onion (preferably Vidalia), grated
  • 1 large clove of garlic, minced or pressed
  • ½ cup fresh parsley, washed, dried and finely chopped
  • 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. hot sauce
  • salt and pepper

Finely chop the cooked shrimp but do not pulverize. You can do this by hand or with a food processor. Grate the zest of the lemon and squeeze the juice and set aside. In a medium bowl mix all the ingredients together including the shrimp and the lemon except the salt and pepper. I suggest this order: Mix mayo and cream cheese until smooth. Then add onion, lemon zest and juice, garlic, and mustard. Mix in parsley and the hot sauce. Fold the shrimp in last. Taste the mixture, adding salt and pepper if you like.

Store in a covered bowl in the refrigerator at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours. Serve with crackers or toast points.