When we bake, we have to be precise. It’s a scientific process that requires exactitude in order to produce the desired outcome. There’s of course a little room for ingenuity, but the foundation of baking recipes is for the most part constant. Baking is that last-minute trip to the grocery store because you realize you’re low on one key ingredient. Cooking, on the other hand, is entirely different. Cooking is the freedom to play and experiment. Cooking is whipping up a work of art by throwing together what you already have in your keeping.
If you ask anyone who’s ever seen me cook, they will tell you not to expect the recipe. Sometimes I don’t remember which ingredients I used, never mind a finely measured recipe for them. And if you ask the same person to explain this phenomenon, they will tell you the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Growing up in my mom’s house meant continually having to renounce favorite meals and concede to new ones because she couldn’t remember what she’d done to make the last one so special. It seemed like no two dishes she’d make on a whim were ever the same.
The other weekend, the city was struck with arctic conditions, so my guy and I were deciding what to eat indoors to avoid the tundra that was NYC. He had a hankering for grits, and as they were conveniently stashed in his pantry, it was all settled. I’d been staring at the ceiling for a while that frigid morning as he continued to sleep, so when he finally woke up, I was ready to get the show on the road. He, however, needed a little more time.
So, we came up with a beautiful breakfast system. While he answered some work emails in bed, I got started on the grits. I collected a handful of the spices available to me: some garlic powder because always, a little onion powder because of course, a dash of paprika because I am pretty certain there’s some sort of rule that you have to put it in everything, salt, black pepper, and dried chives because why not? I put the grits in the pot, added all my spices, and cooked it all according to the instructions provided.
When the grits were a few minutes from completion, simmering happily on the stove, my guy came in and worked his poached egg magic. I hadn’t ever poached an egg before so this was my chance to learn. In the 5 or 6 minutes it took him to boil the water, gently drop the eggs into the spinning liquid, and cook them to soft, yolky perfection, I plated the grits and garnished each serving with a pat of butter and some extra sharp cheddar cheese. Once my task was complete, it was time for him to scoop up the eggs from their hot bath and nestle them into their soft bed of grits. We each sliced open our respective eggs to soak the grits in the rich, creamy yolk, and then we topped it all off with a dash of habanero pepper sauce. Breakfast was served! And oh my, was it delicious.
Based on your new knowledge of how I function when cooking (as opposed to baking), the following is not so much a recipe as it is a set of guidelines with which you can work your own kitchen mojo. When adding your spices, start with a little because you can always add more, but you can’t undo what’s done. And, like every good chef, taste frequently as you go until it’s to your utmost satisfaction. No one knows what you like more than you!
Cheesy Grits and Poached eggs for two
- 2 eggs
- 2 servings of grits
- appropriate amount of water specified for grits on package
- garlic powder
- onion powder
- black pepper
- dried chives
- cheddar cheese
- Habanero pepper sauce
- Place grits and water in a pot.
- Add a few shakes of all your spices/herbs.
- Cook according to grits label.
- As the grits continue to cook, taste and add a little bit of spice if you think it’s needed.
- When you have about 6 minutes cooking time left with the grits, boil water in another small pot.
- Crack 1 egg into a small bowl.
- Once water is boiling, turn heat down to simmer. Spin water around in a circle with a spoon.
- Gently tip egg out of bowl into center of spinning water.
- Quickly repeat steps 6-8 with second egg. Cook 3 minutes.
- Plate grits in a bowl.
- Using a slotted spoon, transfer eggs to bowl.
- Sprinkle with cheese, add some butter, and top it off with the habanero sauce.