I nearly fell over when I just looked at the calendar and realized that THIS IS THE LAST FRIDAY OF AUGUST!!! How did this happen?!! Why is summer always so short?!!! And now let me table the gripe fest, at least for you guys, because the subject of today's Famous Fridays is all about Southern food and it's impossible for me to stay cranky when talking about it--would that I could control myself around my poor husband who will be forced to hear me whine about the shorter days and back-to-school stress for weeks--but I digress. Yes, today we're not only going south, we're also going vegetarian, with the great cookbook, The Southern Vegetarian by Justin Fox Burks and Amy Laurence and their amazing recipe for Sweet Potato Grits with Maple Mushrooms and a Fried Egg (plus a side of tomato salad). So grab what's left of the summer veggies and march yourself into the kitchen to make this amazing brunch entree (actually it would be good for lunch or dinner and equally amazing served during the other 3 seasons as well, but there's got to be some thematic consistency here, right?!!)
When you think of Southern food you generally think of chicken and biscuits, ribs, bacon, gumbo and of course pies and sweet iced tea--vegetarian cooking is not an instant association, but with this cookbook, you'll be rethinking your notions of what southern cooking is all about. Justin and Amy take the veggies that grow abundantly in the south, what with its longer growing season and generations of accomplished farmers, and move them from merely being side dishes to front and center stars, with dishes like Okra Fritters with Creole Mustard Sauce, Red Beans and Rice with Andouille Eggplant, Chubby Vegetarian Gumbo, Roasted Red Pepper and Olive Muffuletta, Chicken Fried Portobellos, and this wonderful, varied and unique Sweet Potato Grits, Maple Mushroom, Tomato Salad and Fried Egg brunch dish!! It's the kind of thing you'd hope to get in some trendy southern joint but now you can make it yourself, whenever you want!
And while there are a few steps here, none of them are difficult or require any labor intensive kitchen time. In fact, most of the components of the dish can be prepared ahead, so if you've done some advance planning you can whip this up in about 30 minutes. You start by baking a sweet potato (totally doable the day before) and stirring it into some stone ground yellow grits. I've never had sweet potato grits before and now I can't imagine my life without them!! They're so smooth and flavorful!
The maple mushrooms are also a snap to prepare and can be done one day ahead as well, covered and chilled and then reheated before serving. They sit in this sweet and tangy marinade and then get roasted to boot and naturally caramelized!! Heavenly!! It was hard to resist nibbling on them while I was putting this whole meal together!
The tomato salad comes together in a snap and adds color and crunch to the plate.
And then there's the fried egg, pulling all of the ingredients together with its sunny perfection!
So many colors, flavors and textures!! If you maneuver things right, you get a little egg, a little creamy sweet potato grits, some maple-y roasted mushrooms and sweet and crunchy tomato salad in every bite! Vegetarian perfection--the southern way! Everyone in my house LOVED this and I know I will be adding it to my "special breakfasts" rotation--it's just too good to have only once!!
So celebrate the almost end of summer with a special brunch this weekend and definitely pick up a copy of Southern Vegetarian Cooking--I promise you won't miss the meat! I'll be back next week with some great late summer recipes and some big news as we head (gasp!) into September!!
The Southern Vegetarian's Sweet Potato Grits with Maple Mushrooms and Fried Egg-Famous Fridays
Makes 4 servings
This seems like a long list of ingredients and steps but each one is easy and requires little active time, so don't get scared off by this all!
Prep Time: For the Grits: Time to bake the sweet potato plus another 20 minutes to put the grits together; For the Maple Mushrooms: About 40 minutes (but only a very small amount ot that time is hands on); For the Tomato topping: 5-7 minutes
For the Maple Mushrooms
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon mustard (preferably the grainy kind)
- 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
- 10 ounces baby bella mushrooms, sliced
For the Sweet Potato Grits
- 1 medium sweet potato
- 2 cups 2% milk (you can use 1% but it won't be as creamy)
- 1/2 cup yellow corn grits
- Sea salt and black pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1/4-1/2 cup water
For the Tomato Topping
- 1 medium tomato, diced
- 1/4 teaspoon sugar
- Sea salt and black pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1/4 cup minced shallots
For the Fried Eggs
- Butter or nonstick spray for the pan
- 4 large eggs
1. To make the Maple Mushrooms: Whisk together the syrup, oil, pepper, mustard and soy sauce in a medium bowl. Add the mushrooms and stir well to coat. Let them sit for 20 minutes.
2. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Drain the mushrooms from the marinade and line them on the baking sheet in a single layer. Cook for about 20 minutes, until the mushrooms are getting brown and seem dry. Remove and set aside. You can make these one day ahead and covered and chilled. Warm them up before using them.
3. To make the sweet potato grits: Preheat the oven to 350º and bake the sweet potato for about an hour, until tender. (You can make the sweet potato a day ahead, wrap it well and store in the fridge--you don't need to heat it up again because it will be getting warmed along with the grits.) Allow to cool and then peel off the skin and mash it up a bit. In a medium saucepan, bring the milk to a boil and whisk in the grits gradually, to avoid clumping. Add about 1 cup of the mashed sweet potato to the pan and use the whisk to break it up a bit. Then season with salt and pepper and add the butter. Turn the heat down to medium low.
4. Let the grits cook, stirring every now and then, until they're smooth and silky--anywhere from 10-20 minutes. Add about 1/4 cup of the water to achieve the desired consistency and only add more water if the grits seem too thick. Set aside.
5. To make the Tomato topping: Place all the ingredients in a small bowl and toss together. Set aside until ready to use.
6. When all your ingredients are ready: Place a mound of the sweet potato mixture on each plate. Fry the eggs and top each of the sweet potato mounds with an egg. Divide the mushroom mixture between the plates and add a spoonful or two of the tomato topping. Serve immediately.
Note: Recipe adapted from The Southern Vegetarian by Justin Fox Burks and Amy Laurence. I left out the liquid smoke from the maple mushrooms, if you like add 1/2 teaspoon of it to the marinade.