I’m always on the lookout for good weeknight recipes. As much as I love spending all day listening to Fresh Air reruns and working on some ridiculous multi-step recipe, these things aren’t always practical when it’s 5:30 and you have half an hour to get dinner on the table. This dish fits the bill: it’s not fancy, but it is very easy to make and it tastes much more complex than the ingredient list would seem (hint: the secret ingredient is highly flavored smoked sausage!).
It’s also pretty inexpensive. Here’s a rough cost breakdown:
1 cup polenta — $1
2 cups milk — $.35
salt — pantry
1/2 cup grated cheese — $1
2 shallots — $.50
1 red pepper — $1
1/2 lb. Andouille sausage — $3
TOTAL — $7.85
per serving — about $2
A word on grits vs. polenta. Apparently, they’re pretty much the same thing. At least, that’s what I told myself when I couldn’t find grits at the grocery store. When I looked on Internet after I got home, I was pleased to find out that I did pretty much the right thing. If you can find grits (or “hominy grits”, which are slightly different), go for it. If you can’t, use polenta or coarse cornmeal. I recommend NOT using quick cooking or instant grits/polenta – the regular kind still only takes 20 minutes to make, and if you start it at the same time as the greens you will be done in well under a half hour.
Of course, you can also skip the polenta (if you’re on some sort of wacky caveman diet). You could also slice the sausages in bigger chunks and serve this in between toasted rolls for a really good sausage/peppers/greens sandwich. You get the idea.
Sauteed Andouille and Grits
barely adapted from Serious Eats
- 2 cups milk
- salt and cayenne or black pepper
- 1 cup grits or polenta
- about 1/2 cup cheddar or Asiago, grated (optional)
- 1 bunch collard greens, stems removed and leaves cut into 1″ squares
- 1/2 pound Andouille sausage, sliced thin
- 2 shallots or 1 small onion, sliced
- 1 red or orange bell pepper, thinly sliced
- hot sauce, for serving
Bring a large pot of water to boil and add 1 tablespoon of salt. Add the greens and cook until quite tender, about 8-10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
While the greens are cooking, bring the milk and 1 cup of water to a boil over medium heat and add 1/2 teaspoon salt and either a pinch of cayenne (my preference, here) or a few grinds of black pepper. Stirring constantly, add the grits. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes.
Turn your attention to the sausage and greens. Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat and add the sausage (no extra fat needed). Cook, stirring occasionally, until some fat has been rendered out and the sausage is starting to brown, a few minutes (Andouille is already cooked, so you’re just trying to add flavor here – it’s OK if every piece is not browned). Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to the bowl with the greens.
In the remaining sausage fat, cook the pepper and shallot or onion over medium heat until lightly browned and soft, about 3-4 minutes. Add 1 cup water and increase the heat to high. Scrape the bottom of the pan to release any browned sausagey bits.
Add the greens and sausage back to the pan and reduce to medium-low. If the greens are not quite tender from the boiling, you can add a little more liquid and cover the pan so they stew a bit. If they seem good to go, just set it aside until you’re ready to serve. Either way, taste for salt. The greens should be salted enough from the boiling, and the sausage usually has a fair bit of salt – but you will probably need to add another pinch. Don’t go overboard, but remember: under-seasoned food is a crime.
Once the grits are done, stir in the cheese. If the grits seem really thick, stir in a little water as well. Serve a scoop of greens and sausage over a spoonful of grits in a shallow bowl, passing hot sauce at the table.