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Cheesy Grits, Sauteed Chicken and Chive Pesto

When my friend Julia and I went to New York a couple of years ago, we went on something of a culinary mission. We ate at the famous Brooklyn pizzeria Grimaldi's, visited the Chelsea Food Market, ate an amazing pig head sandwich, did the duck shepherd's pie at Balthazar and generally swanned about on each and every rooftop bar we could find brunching.

One of the things I tried there and loved was grits. A favourite of the deep South, grits are a staple breakfast food of ground corn. Kind of like wet polenta, or a non-oaty savoury porridge. I had it with sweetcorn, cheese and ham and was very pleasantly surprised; why restrict such a great thing to breakfast?


I really wanted to buy some to take home and experiment with myself, but we ran out of time to search them out. Imagine my surprise in stumbling across a box of them in Kilburn TK Maxx of all places. £5 seemed steep for a box of instant cornmeal, but I had to have them. I've since seen that some of the bigger supermarkets stock them in the American section.

I've had a play around with them at home and they are not *quite* like the kind I had in NYC, but they are close enough and after all we are talking instand grits here. Like any starchy carb you need plenty of seasoning in there, so liberal amounts of salt, pepper, butter and cheese work well.

Here's my recipe:

One sachet instant grits

Knob of butter

10g cheese. I used feta but any will do.

Chicken thigh fillets

Tsp Dijon mustard

Handful fresh chives

Handful fresh parsley

5-6 unsalted almonds (most nuts will work)

Clove of garlic

Squeeze of lemon juice

Tbsp good olive oil

Plenty of salt and pepper

Smear the chicken with the mustard and start cooking in a medium hot pan with small amount of olive oil. Saute it off, making sure you get some nice colour on the meat. My chicken took around ten minutes. Rest it in a warm place while you make a start on the grits by mixing the instant cornmeal with boiling water and milk until you achieve a consistency you like. The pack advises about half a cup of water, then I added some milk to make it more unctuous and creamy. Add you chosen cheese and butter and stir vigorously for a minute or so. Set aside in a warm place.

For the pesto, whizz up the chives, garlic, nuts, parsley and olive oil in a mini blender. A dash of water will loosen it, if you prefer. Add lemon juice and season to taste.

Give the grits another good stir and check the taste and consistency. Adjust with more water/butter and season. Assemble, pouring the pesto over the chicken.

Let me know your thoughts on the grits; they get a bad press over here!

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