WHEN GRILLING MEETS GRITS

BY MARGARET LOCKLAIR | ILLUSTRATION BY LAURA FRANKSTONE

My husband, who doesn’t do recipes, has invented Gribits, another breakfast entrée combining Friday night leftovers with Saturday morning grits.

It’s probably my fault that he hadn’t thought of Gribits before. I had never told him of my grandfather’s maxim that a daily plate of grits held his ribs together.

If I had, Ernie would’ve instantly thought, “Hmmm … ribs … grits … breakfast!”

As it was, he arrived at the point of inspiration single-handedly one Friday night after grilling a platter of boneless pork ribs on which he had lavished half a bottle of mustard-based barbecue sauce. Lean and tender, cut in six-inch lengths about an inchand- a-half thick, the ribs fell upon us like Philistines and we were forced to defend ourselves. We ate all but one that looked too small to inflict injury.

It was then that I saw the gleam in Ernie’s eye. “I’ll bet this would taste fine with grits in the morning!” he announced, and I knew we were in for it.

A plate or a bowlful of grits has been a puddle of symbolism in our marriage. Initially it stood for Saturday, a day without rigid structure, when we sometimes delayed putting on street clothes until 9:30 and made up the day’s agenda as we went … except for the big pot of grits for breakfast. That was nonnegotiable. It didn’t matter how many other carb-laden side dishes we were having on Saturday morning—pancakes, toast, biscuits, bagels, muffins—they were not to be consumed gritsless.

Over the years, my spouse has experimented relentlessly with grits as the blank canvas of breakfast. He favors them white, though my dad—who swears by yellow—calls our grits anemic. Once Ernie had perfected the consistency (extra water) and decided on the perfect saline content (about twice the RDA), he was free to accessorize. Butter? Of course. Cheese? Luscious. Raw egg added and cooked into the grits? Maybe. Shrimp? Let’s pause for a moment of silence.

It’s the meat that inspires him. While I had grown up thinking that bacon and salt-cured ham and sausage links were intended to be cut up and stirred into grits, Ernie had usually consumed them on the side. Catching the spirit, he experimented with stirring in all types of Friday night leftovers: charcoaled steak, salmon, barbecued chicken, taco-flavored hamburger, venison, pepperoni (I don’t recommend this last one). Our alltime favorite is nothing novel—pit-cooked barbecue in a vinegar-based sauce—but the prospect alone can get us out of bed in the winter.

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Gribits was the first dish so surprising that we named it. With only one small rib to work with, Ernie cut it into quarter-inch slices. At the table, we folded the slices into our hot buttered grits, prayed, stirred and tasted.

Hoo-ha for the mustard! The sauce had soaked nicely into the grilled pork during the night, with enough left on top to give our buttered grits a piquant pop. We were jubilant. This was far, far better than expected. How had we missed trying this before? Obviously, not enough rib grilling had taken place on Fridays.

With this in mind, I’ve adjusted my menu planning and shopping schedule.

Almost never, however, do I have to shop for grits. The gritsmaster sees to that himself. And now that he’s retired, there are six more days of the week to play with it. He’s thinking hard about roasted oysters.

Margaret Locklair is more comfortable with the keyboard than the stovetop, but she deeply admires Southern cooking. locklair@homesc.com.