I don’t yet own this cookbook by Virginia Willis, but have a feeling I’ll have to stroll on over to Avid Bookshop very soon to buy a copy. Several recipes from the book were featured in American Profile a couple weeks back, including one for sweet potato grits.
Yep, you heard me right. Sweet potatoes + grits = Southern food heaven.
So yesterday, when Micah and I were brainstorming brunch ideas to use up the last of some leftover sausage, that sweet potato grits recipe dropped by and said, “Hey, y’all!”
I made a few modifications to Ms. Willis’s recipe because I had polenta in the pantry (but no grits–for shame!), I wasn’t really in the mood to season my already-sweet veggies with cinnamon and ginger, and I didn’t really want to be cooking my breakfast for 45-60 minutes. (Especially since we’d already slept until 11:00. Ah, spring break, I will miss you so!)
We made a meal of the grits and sausage by topping the dish off with a sunny side up egg and some fresh cilantro:
Doesn’t that look tasty? It was. But don’t take my word for it. Or Micah’s. (We both licked our bowls clean.) Try it for yourself! (This will make a reasonably-sized brunch for two, or a big ol’ brunch for one. :))
What’s in it:
- 1 large or 2 small sweet potatoes
- 1/4 cup polenta
- 1 cup milk
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/4 pound of pork breakfast sausage
- 2 eggs
- a little more salt and pepper
- a big handful of fresh cilantro
- Preheat your oven on warm (about 170-200°F).
- Ms. Willis grates her sweet potatoes into the grits and then lets them cook for about an hour. I was too impatient for this, and it’s really quick and easy to bake sweet potatoes in the microwave–so that’s my recommendation. Get those tubers nice and tender, squeeze them out of the peel, and then mash them up real good.
- In a small saucepan, heat your milk and polenta together over medium heat, whisking as it thickens. I’ve always heard that you should boil the cooking liquid first, then vigorously whisk in your polenta. But mine always turns out lumpy when I do it that way, and lumpy polenta ain’t good eats. (Well, actually, I’ve eaten and enjoyed lumpy polenta many times….but it’s even better when it’s smooth and creamy!) Yesterday, as an experiment, I tried whisking everything cold and letting it all heat together, and my polenta was nice and smooth. If you try this, please let me know if it works for you or if it was just a fluke for me!
- Once the polenta is good and thick (about 10 minutes later), add the mashed sweet potato, butter, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. (Of course, you can always add more butter, salt, and/or pepper to suit your liking.)
- Divide the cooked polenta into two oven-safe bowls and stick them in your warm oven while you tend to your sausage and eggs.
- Brown and crumble the sausage in a skillet over medium heat.
- Use a slotted spoon to top your bowls of grits with the sausage, then put those bowls back into the oven.
- Pour off most (but not all) of the sausage grease from your skillet–you want to leave some to cook your eggs in!
- Crack your eggs into the hot pan and cook them until the whites are cooked through and the yolks are just starting to firm up. To make sure the tops of your whites get done, you can put a lid over the pan for a minute or spoon some of the hot sausage grease over them à la the Pioneer Woman. Make sure to season your eggs with a sprinkle of salt and pepper while they cook.
- Get your bowls out of the oven and slide the cooked eggs on top of the grits and sausage.
- Finish with some fresh cilantro leaves on top.
A note about the eggs: there’s some controversy over whether it’s advisable to eat them sunny side up. The odds are slim, but not quite none, that raw eggs could make you sick. And salmonella infections, from what I hear, are no fun. If you’re concerned, or just don’t like your yolks runny, then by all means, flip your eggs and cook ’em a little more.
But, anecdotally, I’ve been eating my eggs sunny side up or soft-poached for years (not to mention plenty of raw eggs in cookie doughs and cake batters), and have never once suffered a salmonella infection. Lots of other people do this, and I’d be willing to bet that the farmers who sell us our eggs are among this group.
Until I’m stricken with terrible salmonella poisoning, I’ll keep eating my lazy brunch eggs sunny side up, because there are few things in life that I enjoy more than piercing a golden egg yolk with the tip of my fork…letting it spill onto the rest of my food as a rich, thick, gorgeous sauce…and scraping up every last drop of that delicious stuff with a hunk of warm bread or (with a Southern-inspired meal like this) a fluffy buttermilk biscuit.