This is a dish that one of our Sous Chefs, Matt Tilman, introduced that has been very well received. He very aptly entitled it “Southern Surf and Turf”. It consists of tender braised bacon, grilled shrimp, collard greens and Anson Mills Stone Ground grits. We served this dish this week to a class on Southern cuisine and you could watch the waves of euphoria wash over the students as they moved from the bitter-sweet collards to the fork tender smoked bacon, the creamy and rich heirloom grits and the tender shrimp.
In our kitchen we endeavor to use quality ingredients that are locally sourced. At times we are thwarted by the sheer volume of food that must be produced, but it’s always our goal. I have no fundamental problems with genetically modified foods…humans have been altering produce and selectively breeding animals for centuries. What I have a problem with is a large and largely anonymous company whose primary concern is their profit margin producing food for the masses with a large public relations budget and little oversight from the FDA. My problem is that their mantra seems to be not that it’s good for you, but rather that it’s not bad for you.
The grits that we use are from Anson Mills in Columbia, South Carolina. Founded in 1998 by Glenn Roberts, Anson Mills produces grits unlike any other in the country.
Roberts was a successful Charleston restaurateur who sold everything to start a venture that would return to tables the nearly extinct foods that our ancestors once enjoyed. Roberts scoured the country side in search of rare grains, often finding them in unusual locations. Once located, he set about the work of procuring stone mills and recreating the processes of old.
Anson Mills now produces Antebellum Grits, Blue Corn Grits, Speckled Corn Grits, Colonial Flour and much more. Ingredient-conscious chefs everywhere now use their ingredients, including Thomas Keller’s Per Se in New York City where I enjoyed them several years ago. Anson Mills has not only resuscitated over a dozen different threatened antebellum grains, but they provide grants and research information to over thirty growers in six states that share their passion for organic ingredients.
The passion and integrity of growers like Anson Mills make our jobs as chefs much easier than it would otherwise be, and I would take their product over Quakers Instant Grits any day.