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Sweet Potato Grits

“The first time I had sweet potato grits, it was a revelation,” writes Atlanta Chef Virginia Willis in her cookbook “Basic to Brilliant, Y’all.” “Two of the ultimate Southern sides were married into one — delicious,” she continues. Perfect as a substitute for the sweet potato casserole or star in a Thanksgiving brunch, we think Sweet Potato Grits may be the new go-to favorite. The secret to perfect, creamy grits? Continued stirring and lots of patience advises Willis. And to take this recipe up a notch (the theme of Willis’s cookbook), she suggests adding eggs and turning it into a soufflé-like spoonbread.

2 cups water
2 cups low-fat or whole milk
1 cup stone-ground grits
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and grated
Coarse salt and freshly ground white pepper
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
Pinch of ground cinnamon
1 T unsalted butter

In a large, heavy saucepan, combine the water and milk and bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat. Slowly add the grits, whisking constantly. Add the sweet potato. Season with salt and white pepper. Decrease the heat to low and simmer, stirring often, until the grits are creamy and thick, 45-60 minutes. Taste the grits and sweet potato to make sure both are cooked and tender. Add the ground ginger, cinnamon and butter. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and white pepper. Serve immediately.

Sweet Potato Spoonbread

Add a bit of technique and our basic country classic is transformed into a brilliant soufflé-like spoonbread. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter an ovenproof casserole or round, 2-quart soufflé mold. To the sweet potato grits mixture, add 2 large egg yolks, one at a time, stirring after each addition. In a separate bowl, using a handheld mixer, beat 2 large egg whites with a pinch of salt on high speed until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites into the warm sweet potato mixture. Transfer the lightened mixture to the prepared pan; smooth the surface with a spatula. Bake until the outside is puffed and risen, the inside firm but moist, and the top golden brown, 35-40 minutes. Serve immediately while still puffed. Serves 4-6.

Reprinted with permission from Basic to Brilliant, Y’all: 150 Refined Southern Recipes and Ways to Dress Them Up for Company by Virginia Willis, copyright © 2011. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.

Photo credit: Helene Dujardin © 2011

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