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White Corn Grits: Blue Duck Tavern Copycat

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Over Labor Day Weekend Travis flew me to Washington D.C. as a special birthday treat. Despite living less than 4 hours away while I was in college, I had never been! We had a fantastic long weekend in D.C. We saw the monuments, visited the Natural History Museum, and dined on some of D.C.’s finest foods.

blue duck tavern logo

What really made this weekend special was dining at our first Michelin-starred restaurant: Blue Duck Tavern! Blue Duck Tavern has a seasonal menu based on regionally-sourced and in season items. What is on the menu one month may not be available the next.

 

Blue duck tavern white corn grits

 

We both shared a  favorite element of the meal: the white corn grits. Even though it was only a side dish, the white corn grits were definitely a standout star of the night. I knew I had to recreate them.

Here’s my adaptation on Blue Duck Tavern’s White Corn Grits.

 

 

Start by roasting your garlic. Roasted garlic is deep and rich in flavor and doesn’t have any of the bite of raw garlic.

Preheat your oven to 400°F. While the oven preheats, slice off the top ¼ inch of the head of garlic and remove the papery outer skin. Drizzle with olive oil, wrap in foil, and roast for 40+ minutes. The longer the garlic cooks, the more deeply caramelized it will become!

 

Roasted garlic an chives

 

Don’t worry too much about overcooking it—it’s very hard to do. The deeper the color of your cloves, the greater depth of flavor the garlic will impart to your white corn grits. Let the garlic cool completely, then squeeze out the roasted garlic cloves and discard the skin.

 

Roasted shallots

 

While the garlic roasts, make the fried shallots. Remove and discard the outer skin from the shallots. Slice the shallots crosswise into thin rings, about 2mm thick. I used my Cuisinart food processor, fitted with the 2mm slicing blade to get perfectly thin, evenly sliced shallots, but a sharp knife like the Wusthoff 8″ Chef’s knife and steady hand work fine as well.

 

Sliced shallots

 

Add the sliced shallots to cold oil in a medium pot and turn the heat to high. When bubbles start to appear rapidly around the shallots, reduce the heat to medium. These bubbles are moisture meeting the hot oil and evaporating—we need that moisture gone to get the crispiness we need! Cook until the bubbles decrease in frequency and your shallots appear light golden brown. Remove the shallots from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain them on a paper towel.

To start the white corn grits you’ll need a large pot. In the large pot, combine water, ¼ tsp. salt, and 1 tbsp. butter and bring to a boil. Slowly add the grits and let everything return to a full boil. Lower the heat to the lowest setting and cook, stirring frequently, for 15-20 minutes.

After most of the liquid is absorbed, add milk and stir for an additional 5-10 minutes. You may have to add more liquid to get the correct texture. Contrary to the name, grits should not be “gritty” at all. When the right level of liquid has been added, your grits will be creamy, smooth, and delicious.

 

 

Once the grits are a creamy consistency throughout, remove them from heat and add the reserved roasted garlic, shredded cheddar and parmesan cheese, stirring to combine. Taste for seasoning, add salt, pepper, and 1-2 tbsp. of butter to finish. Serve in low bowls sprinkled with chopped chives and topped with fried shallots. Enjoy!

 

White corn grits

 

Hint! While working this recipe out I tried a variety of cheeses. Our best copycat used a cheddar-gruyere blend purchased at Trader Joe’s. We know not everyone has access to a Trader Joe’s, so a good aged cheddar will work too. But if you have a Trader Joe’s nearby, see if they have the cheddar-gruyere block and use that instead!

Ingredients for White Corn Grits

  • ½ cup stone-ground white grits, dry
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • ½ cup milk of choice
  • ½-¾ cup quality white cheddar, grated
  • ¼ cup quality parmesan, grated
  • 1 large head of garlic, roasted until soft & caramelized (see instructions)
  • 2 shallots, sliced into thin rings
  • 1-2 cups grapeseed or canola oil, for frying
  • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
  • Chives, chopped
  • Salt + Pepper, to taste
  • Olive oil

Instructions

  1. Start by roasting your garlic. Preheat your oven to 400°F. While the oven preheats, slice off the top ¼ inch of the head of garlic and remove the papery outer skin. Drizzle with olive oil, wrap in foil, and roast for 40+ minutes. Cool completely, then squeeze out roasted garlic cloves and discard skin.
  2. While the garlic is roasting, remove and discard the outer skin from the shallots. Working crosswise, slice the shallots into thin rings, about 2mm thick (a mandolin works great to ensure consistent, razor thin cuts). Add sliced shallots to cold oil in a medium pot and turn the heat to high. When bubbles start to appear rapidly around the shallots, reduce heat to medium. Cook until bubbles decrease in frequency and shallots appear light golden brown. Remove from oil with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel.
  3. In a large pot, combine water, ¼ tsp. salt, and 1 tbsp. butter and bring to a boil. Slowly add the grits and let everything return to a full boil. Lower the heat to the lowest simmer setting and cook, stirring frequently, for 15-20 minutes. After most of the liquid is absorbed, add milk and stir for an additional 5-10 minutes.
  4. Once the grits are a creamy consistency throughout, remove from heat and add the roasted garlic, cheddar, and parmesan cheese, stirring to combine. Taste for seasoning, add salt, pepper, and 1-2 tbsp. of butter to finish. Serve in low bowls sprinkled with chopped chives and topped with fried shallots.

Note: Steps 1 & 2 can be done in advance to save time—just store your roasted garlic in an airtight container in the fridge and your fried shallots in an airtight container at room temperature until ready for use.