It’s debatable whether Frank Stitt at Highlands Bar & Grill in Birmingham, Alabama, is the most innovative chef in the South, but surely none of his creative dishes illustrates better the intelligent juxtaposition of Southern ingredients and French technique than these glorious grits ramekins topped with a mixture of pungent wild mushrooms and country ham and served with a spicy butter sauce. Yes, the dish takes a little time and effort to prepare, but it not only shows the sophisticated role grits can play in modern Southern cookery but also provides a truly elegant appetizer or luncheon dish that will have guests raving with joy.
To make the grits, combine the water and salt in a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil. Gradually stir in the grits, reduce the heat to low, and
To make the sauce, combine the wine, vinegar, ham, scallions, thyme, bay leaf, and chile pepper in a heavy saucepan, bring to a boil, and cook till the liquid is reduced to 1 tablespoon. Reduce the heat to low and add the cream, stirring. Whisk in the pieces of butter till well blended, then strain into a bowl, discarding the solids. Add the cheese, salt and pepper, and lemon juice, stir well, and keep the sauce warm.
To make the topping, heat the oil in a skillet over moderate heat, add the ham, mushrooms, and garlic, and
To serve, invert the ramekins on serving plates, ladle sauce around each, and top each with equal amounts of the mushroom mixture. Garnish each plate with thyme sprigs and serve immediately.
© 2007 All rights reserved. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.