When people find out that Amir and I love to cook, one of the first questions is “What’s your specialty?” Does anyone else find this one hard to answer? Most of us in the food blogging community dabble in a bit of this and that, so it can be difficult to say that your blog falls into one genre. We love exploring various ethnic foods–mostly for the challenge, but also as a way to expand our range of techniques, ingredients and tools. We also love desserts. There is a fat sweet tooth in both of our mouths. If I had to choose another category that excites us, it would be our version of Southern Californian food. That would be a mix of our Southern favorites with Californian flavors. Today’s recipe fits the bill, and it features ingredients from this month’s KitchenPLAY sponsors–Avocados From Mexico and Jarlsberg USA.
Grits, grits, grits. They are a breakfast favorite in the South. You will find them on almost any local eateries menu, and of course, they are an integral piece of the weekend’s morning meal puzzle. My mother’s mother would make grits just about any morning that I happened to be at her home. Her method was simple and quick. White grits cooked in water with salt, pepper and butter. The addition of shredded cheddar cheese was possible, but it was a rare thing for me to do. There was a time that I found myself rolling my eyes at the idea of having grits (again!), but now there is something comforting and reassuring to her expected routine. It wasn’t until I made my way to North Carolina that I had my first bowl of grits with a prime topper–shrimp. Shrimp and grits changed my life. That may sound dramatic, but we all know how we feel when a nostalgic dish is hit with a unique twist.
Now that we’ve reviewed the Southern element of this breakfast recipe, let’s talk about the West coast piece. Avocados! Amir grew up eating avocados in the form of guacamole, and he had his first plain ‘ol avo when he moved to L.A. in 2005. My first avocado experience in all of life happened in 2005 also. That sounds odd to many, but after living in the South and also the Northeast, for most of my life, it was rare to find avocados in the foods that I ate. My first avocado was in a salad, and there was something about the soft, buttery texture that intrigued me. Little by little, my body demanded more avocados, and I ate them on sandwiches, burgers, omelettes, tacos, burritos, etc. Let’s not forget guacamole. It is a mandatory item at just about any party, and if it’s there, I will find it. It’s that serious.
Amir and I have an interesting connection to Avocados From Mexico, and that is why this is a fun return to a familiar playground. In 2011, we participated in the Avocado Takedown, and our recipe for Mini BLTA Whoopie Pies came together thanks to the little green gems from Mexico. Our neighboring country to the South is the largest producer of avocados, and word has it that Mexico is also the home of the very first grown avocado in the world. That’s a great feat to boast. With Mexico pretty much next door, we have a constant import of avocados coming in to all of our grocery stores. We can have avocados any time of the year really, and that means we can eat them for any sort of meal..even breakfast!
The combination of grits and avocados did not come to mind immediately, but the fit felt natural. Creamy grits, creamy avocados–why not? Grandma may have always used white grits, but this recipe features fine yellow cornmeal. This version of grits is more in line with the old-school cornmeal mush that has been consumed since the days of the American Indians. It was a popular breakfast or supper dish for Civil War soldiers and travelers along America’s frontiers, as well as settled families in the late 1800s. Because of its ability to set into a solid consistency once cooled, the cornmeal mush would be chilled, sliced, fried and served with milk, sugar and syrup for another type of breakfast dish. If you’re having a hard time imagining what this cornmeal could possibly look like, think about polenta. Oh yes, they are oh so similar. This recipe will work with your favorite type of grits–coarse or finely ground, yellow, blue or white.
With cooked cornmeal in the pot, it was time to give the final dish some punch. Adding chorizo to the mix was the next step. We used Mexican chorizo, which has a beautiful salty quality as well as a slightly crumbly texture and, of course, fat. The flavor of the chorizo would be perfect with the fresh avocados. Not just avocados, though. Roasted poblano peppers and tomatillos, lime juice and jalapeno peppers, along with the avocados, would create a mildly smoky guacamole. We did not forget the cheese though! Jarlsberg Lite is a very flavorful cheese, despite the fact that it has less fat and calories than his brethren. It is light and nutty, which seemed appropriate for the grits. I may not have been the type of girl to add cheese to my grits back in the day, but in my later years of life, I am more than happy to do so. Once the grits are topped with chorizo and guacamole, you may not miss the idea of those shrimp. When the South meets the West coast, there is no telling what delicious dish will end up on the table.
Now that you’ve seen how we play with our avocados for breakfast, what are you thinking you could do with them? We’d love to know how you see avocados in a new light, and so would Avocados from Mexico! Enter the Avocados From Mexico sweepstakes, and enter for your chance to win $2000 worth of cookware and other prizes, including free groceries. Everyone out there could use free groceries these days. There are more than 500 prizes available, which means your chance of winning a little something is pretty good. But only if you enter. The sweepstakes ends April 14, 2013 at 11:59 pm PST. Time is a-tickin’! In the meantime, check out the Avocados From Mexico Facebook page for more information and recipes.
Finally, be sure to register for the KitchenPLAY Twitter party and treasure hunt on April 16, 2013 at 7:00 pm EST. Use the hashtag #BreakfastDuos to follow along and participate, and make a note of this clue that will help you win a prize during the chat: The original Jarlsberg is based upon a secret Norwegian recipe from 1956. Good luck!
Cheese Grits with Chorizo and Roasted Tomatillo, Poblano Pepper and Avocado Guacamole – Serves 2 to 4
1/3 pound tomatillos, chopped
2 large avocados, halved and pitted
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil, divided
1 large poblano pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded and chopped
1/2 bunch scallions, finely chopped
1/2 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
Zest and juice of 1 lime
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1. Evenly spread the tomatillos over a foil-lined baking sheet. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of grapeseed oil over the tomatillos and toss well to coat. Roast in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, and add the avocados to the sheet tray, cut-side down. Continue cooking for another 15 minutes, then remove from the oven and transfer to a bowl.
2. Add the poblano peppers, scallions, serrano pepper, cilantro, lime zest and juice, salt and remaining olive oil to the bowl. Toss well, then mash to incorporate all of the flavors. Eat immediately, or store in an airtight container.
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1/2 pound pork chorizo
2 cups vegetable broth
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2/3 cup yellow cornmeal
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup diced Jarlsberg Lite cheese
Sour cream, optional
1. In a medium saute pan, heat the grapeseed oil over a medium high flame. Add the onions and cook for 7-9 minutes. Once translucent and soft, add the chorizo to the pan and cook until done, approximately 7-8 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside, saving the pan.
2. Pour the vegetable broth into a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil. Add the salt, and slowly stream in the cornmeal, whisking all the while to prevent lumps. Continue whisking while the cornmeal cooks for 2 minutes.
3. Drop in the butter, and once it melts, whisk in the cheese. Remove the pan from heat.
4. Serve topped with the mix of onions and chorizo and the warm guacamole.
Click HERE for the printable recipe.
Disclaimer: We participated in the KitchenPLAY Breakfast Duos program in exchange for compensation, but all opinions are our own.