I love to cook. Profound statement, I know. I love to cook EVERYTHING; from ethnic foods, unusual combinations, recipes taking days to meals made in minutes. For me, the more unusual, the better. It keeps my skills honed. It keeps me entertained. It pushes my creative limits. It tries my patience. Sometimes we need to be nudged out of our comfort zone to continue to grow. Sometimes we need to be shoved with massive force.
But sometimes, on mushy, sentimental days, we don’t really need any of that. Some days aren’t about pushing to be better. Or to be more of anything. Or testing our limits. Some days all we really need to feel accomplished and content, is to know who we truly are, and just get back to our roots.
When I was younger, if you would have told me that one day I would have a passion for cooking and creating in the kitchen, I would have literally died in a fit of hysterical laughter. Me? The girl who spot welded a pot to the stove trying to boil water. THIS Melissa? The one who made a pizza crust so soggy it should have been pizza soup? Me? THIS me?
Who’d have thunk it? I certainly wouldn’t have.
As I was creating our menu for the week, I reflected a good bit on my roots. How I grew up, where I grew up, who I grew up with, and …what we ate. I remembered with sheer joy mama’s Sunday dinners and how she would always have the same sides with the same meats because “Missy, they just go together.” Potato salad, squash casserole, deviled eggs and green beans went with Baked Coca Cola Ham; Egg noodle soup, Livernips, potatoes and carrots went with a pot roast; and mashed potatoes & gravy, baked macaroni and cheese and corn on the cob went with fried chicken. Because it just did. She didn’t respond well to being interrogated on her meal planning and no one was brave enough to question her for long. She would promptly enforce rapid kitchen removal with a flyswat and a relatively loud, “SHOO!! OUT!”. Now flyswats may not LOOK intimidating, but once you get a good, solid swat on the back of the legs, and that plastic mesh makes a solid connection, you learn quickly to RUN at a high rate of speed from that evil, little device.
These days I can relate to mama’s cooking methodology, and I most assuredly understand that some things just go together. I’m not sure if these Hickory Smoked Molasses Pork Chops and Spring Onion and Monterrey Jack Pimento Cheese Grits exactly go together like peas and carrots, or the things in mama’s Sunday dinners, but I think she would approve. She would be proud that I know who I am, I appreciate very much where I came from and every now and again, just need to visit my roots.
Hickory Smoked Molasses Pork Chops
- 6 pork chops
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
- 1 cup molasses
- 3 qts pineapple or orange juice
- 1 bunch thyme
- 1 tsp black peppercorns
- 3 bay leaves
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 sweet onion, chopped
- 1 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 cup cider vinegar
- 1 can crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 tbsp paprika
- 1/4 cup bourbon
- salt & pepper to taste
- 1 tbsp. cornstarch – reserved for BBQ sauce
Mix all ingredients, except the pork chops and cornstarch, in a large mixing bowl. Place pork chops with marinade in a plastic bowl with lid, or large ziplock bag, reserving the remainder of the marinade if it’s too much for the container. Allow to marinate at least three hours, overnight is preferable. Remove chops from marinade, reserving the marinade. Grill chops using hickory chips. Place reserved marinade in a pot on the stove. Bring to a low boil. Mix cornstarch with 1/4 cup cold water and add to marinade. This will thicken your marinade to a BBQ sauce. Allow to boil for about 1 minute, then reduce heat and simmer until you reach desired consistency.
NOTE: These can also be baked in the oven at 350 for about 30 minutes. To get the hickory smoke flavor, add 1 tbsp Liquid Hickory Smoke to your marinade. This can be found in most grocery stores.
Spring Onion & Monterrey Jack Pimento Cheese Grits
- 1 cup yellow stone ground grits, prepared to your taste, set aside
- 1/2 stick butter
- 1- 8 oz. block cream cheese
- 12 oz. grated Monterrey Jack Cheese
- 1 large jar pimentos
- 3 diced Spring Onions
- 1/2 cup mayo
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 1 pinch red pepper
- salt & pepper to taste
In a stand mixer, whip the cream cheese. Add mayo and continue to whip until creamy. Add cheese and balance of ingredients, except grits and butter, and continue to mix until well blended. Add butter and about 1/2 batch of your pimento cheese to your grits and stir well. You can add more or less if you like. The trick to good grits is ALL in the stirring 🙂
NOTE: Save the remaining pimento cheese for tomorrow’s FPG recipe, Spicy Pineapple Shrimp Stacks with Pimento Cheese and Fried Green Tomatoes! We’re getting back to our roots y’all!
Life’s too short to eat ugly food. Bon appetit y’all!