Anne's Grillades and Grits
If one dish could epitomize New Orleans comfort food I would place my bet on grillades (pronounced "gree-yadz"). Many associate it with brunch, but my partner Charles most enjoyed it for his birthday dinner. His mother, Anne, makes hers with beef, but lots of New Orleanians would insist on veal. Defying both these traditions, we make ours with pork butt, which happens to be very affordable and flavorful. Serve this dish in the depths of a cold, dreary winter when you have nothing better to do than cook the day away. You will be sure to win many fans!
2 cups red wine
3 ½ pounds pork butt, diced
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup vegetable oil
¼ to 1/2cup flour
3 cups chopped onion, about 1 1/2 mediums onions or 1 large onion
2 cups chopped green bell pepper, about 2 1/2 medium bell peppers
2 cups chopped celery, about 3 stalks
1 quart chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth
28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
¼ cup hot sauce
1 ½ tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
About 20 sprigs of thyme, tied in a bundle
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 bay leaves
4 whole garlic cloves
Bring wine to a boil in a medium saucepan and reduce by half. Reserve for later use.
Season pork with 1 tablespoon salt and 1 tablespoon pepper. Heat a large Dutch oven or other large pot over high heat. Add pork butt and sear until all of the meat is well browned and has released some fat, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer the meat to a large baking dish and reserve for later use.
Reduce heat to medium. (Be sure to allow the pot's temperature to reduce a bit so that you do not immediately burn the flour. This will also calm down the spitting and spatting that the leftover pork bits are most likely doing.) Add oil and flour (amount of flour will depend on amount of fat released from pork butt. If it released a lot of fat you could need up to 1/2 cup flour. Basically, add enough flour to form a thin paste. This is your "roux"!) Cook, stirring constantly, until your roux has become dark chocolate brown in color, 15 to 20 minutes. This obviously take a little while and is a very important part of the process. The key with a roux is patience. If you try to speed up the process by increasing the heat you risk burning the roux. This will ruin the entire dish as it is the foundation of the flavor. Simply relax and stir. Also, be careful of splashing yourself with the roux as it is molten hot!
Once you have achieved desired color, add the onions, celery, and bell pepper to the pot. Season with remaining 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of black pepper. Saute until onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the reserved wine, stock, tomatoes, hot sauce, Worcestershire, thyme, oregano, bay leaves, garlic, and reserved pork. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until meat is very tender (it should fall begin to shred when prodded with a fork), about 3 hours. Discard thyme bundle and bay leaves before serving.
Serve over grits.
YIELD: About 8 servings
P.S. At the GO we often add shrimp to this dish to create our Wintertime Shrimp and Grits. To do this, simply add one pound of peeled and deveined shrimp as the last step in the cooking process (once your meat is fork tender.) Stir and cook until shrimp are just pink and firm, about 5 minutes. This will increase your yield -- giving you 10 to 12 servings.