Local Infusion: Breakfast Grits with Candied Bacon

Local Infusion: Breakfast Grits with Candied Bacon
Recipe by Nathan Carraba
Photos by Stephen Devries
 Cornmeal is more than just the main ingredient in cornbread. These versatile, golden kernels come in a range of textures, from the finest of corn flours to the coarsest of grits. Whether you're using it for surprisingly sweet cakes, creamy grits, or capping your next pot of chili with a golden hat of cornbread, the sweet aroma will surely send you back to those Sunday gatherings of family and grandma's cooking. Mixing traditional and modern approaches to this classically southern ingredient, these dishes are sure to liven up you next dinner party.

1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 lb. thick-cut, center-cut bacon
2 C. whole milk
1 C. quick cooking white corn grits
Salt and pepper to taste
5 oz. sharp white cheddar, grated
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 egg per serving (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium sized bowl, mix together brown sugar, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Dip both sides of the bacon in the sugar mixture, evenly plating the bacon, then place on a baking pan. Place the pan in the heated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the bacon is fully cooked and slightly caramelized. If pieces start to darken, remove them.

While the bacon roasts, bring the milk and 2 cups of water to a boil. Slowly pour in the grits, whisking to ensure a smooth consistency. Turn the heat down to medium-low, whisking occasionally. Simmer for 5 to 7 minutes, or until desired consistency is reached. Season with salt and pepper to taste and whisk in the cheddar and butter. The butter will add a glossy, smooth texture, only if added at the end. Divide the grits between each bowl and serve with a fried egg and the candied bacon. Extra bacon will last a few days in the refrigerator.