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Secrets, Creamy White Grits and Chanterelle Mushrooms

Have you ever kept something a really big secret? Something you’ve never shared with anyone? I was amazed at how long Matt kept his proposal plans a secret from me. Even when, after our holiday party three years ago, when the diamond was already in his possession, he vehemently denied that we’d be getting engaged ‘anytime soon.’ I’m pretty sure that if I had to do the proposing, I’d hardly last a week before popping the question.

Most of the secrets I keep are actually other people’s. I kind of suspect that many of us are treasure troves of secrets — the majority of which are not our own. My suitcase of secrets includes things that are fun and silly, but also painful and hurtful. Knowing that they belong to other people makes it easier to keep them locked up. But keeping my own secrets? That’s a whole different story. I don’t think there’s anything I’ve never told anyone. It’s not even about being strategic. I’ve never been very good at elusiveness. Why crush away on someone without letting that person in on your ‘secret’? Why guard a ‘secret’ family recipe when it could be enjoyed by so many other people? I’m no good at secrets.

Funny thing is, there have been a few things I’ve kept on the down low over the years, but they’ve tumbled out at the most unexpected moments. After guarding these secrets for so long, I was shocked at how un-secretive they felt when they were unleashed into the world.

The best reason to keep a secret (other than for your friends) is when you know that it can preserve something really special between you and the people you choose to share it with. For mushroom people, one of the most secretive out there, this means never revealing where they find their wild jewels. Chanterelles are the mushroom of my youth — I grew up picking them with my family back in Russia – but they are also quite popular in California. Around Pt. Reyes, about an hour north of San Francisco, there are a few well-known spots for chanterelle-picking, but most of the folks who pick them keep the exact geographic locations of these spots a closely-guarded secret. Chanterelle prices vary widely over the course of the year, and depending on the vendor. When I spot beautiful golden chanterelles at a reasonable price, I always buy some. They’re especially pleasant when I need something comforting.

This recipe feels like Fall, forests, cozy, rainy evenings, and secrets, all in one bowl. Chanterelle mushrooms are roughly chopped, mixed with some of my favorite fresh herbs, onion, and a splash of wine. Then, combined with some Italian sausage. Tucked under, is a bowl-ful of creamy, buttery, white grits. Here’s a secret I’m totally willing to share.

Creamy White Grits and Chanterelle Mushrooms
*serves four

1 pound of Chanterelle mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon of finely chopped thyme, oregano and rosemary
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup of white grits
1 tablespoon of butter
1 cup of milk, plus more, to finish the grits
2 high-quality mild Italian sausages (optional)
1 tablespoon of chopped, fresh parsley
salt and pepper
splash of white wine
Parmesan cheese, for serving

1. Start the grits: combine 1 cup of water with 1 cup of milk. Bring the mixture to a slow boil and whisk in the grits to break up any chunks. Lower the heat to a simmer and continue cooking, whisking frequently, for 20 minutes (or until the grits are done). Stir in a tablespoon of butter and some milk (to your liking). Grits should be creamy, not runny, but not dry, either. Season the grits with salt and pepper, to taste.
2. While the grits are cooking, preheat your broiler (if you are using sausages). Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Stir in the onion and saute for about 5-10 minutes (until soft and translucent). Dial down the heat, if needed.
3. Add the mushrooms to the pan, along with the thyme, oregano, and rosemary. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for several minutes. The mushrooms will cook out a lot of liquid, but it will evaporate as you continue cooking them. Add a splash of white wine to the mushrooms. Stir and cook about 8-10 more minutes (or until the mushrooms soften). Add more olive oil to the saute if the mixture appears dry.
4. Place the sausages on a lined broiler-safe baking sheet. Cook, turning them halfway through, until done. Remove the sausages from the oven and let them cool slightly, before slicing them into bite-sized pieces. Toss them into the pan with the mushrooms and mix well.
5. To serve, fill bowls with grits and top with mushroom-sausage mixture. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and Parmesan cheese, to taste.

Musical Pairings: Iron & Wine – The Shepherd’s Dog + Creamy White Grits and Chanterelle Mushrooms

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Posted by Kasey

Kasey is the food editor and co-founder of Turntable Kitchen. She loves dark chocolate, warm crusty bread, and traveling to new places. She speaks Russian, but does not like vodka.

  • I might be naive but what are grits?

  • dmarie

    Finely ground corn meal.

  • Hannah Simon

    Lovely post. I think that there are two kinds of secrets: the kind that age like wine, getting better with time until you finally uncork the bottle and spill it out, enjoying every sip… and the kind like fresh fruit that should be shared immediately before going bad. 🙂

  • Brilliant, Hannah. I could not have said it better myself.

  • You can replace the white grits with yellow grits, polenta, or cornmeal. Grits are popular a staple in the American South, but are growing in popularity in other parts of America as well.

  • Wow! This simple dinner idea is a revelation. Though I don’t think I’ll be able to rustle up actual chanterelles on short notice, dinner tonight just took a turn for the awesome.

  • Tracy

    I’m secretly trying to turn my husband into a mushroom eater! SHHH don’t tell him. This looks SOOO good btw. Exactly what I want RIGHT NOW.

  • Ohhh…Mushrooms are one of Matt’s favorite things…He’s even willing to eat vegetarian if mushrooms are involved…:)

  • Elizabeth- this can totally work with any kinds of mushrooms. I love the delicate flavor of chanterelles, but mixed mushrooms are a great option as well.

  • Oh yum I love white ground cornmeal or ‘harina pan’. I use it to make Venezuelan Arepas, have you tried them before? This looks amazing, I will definitely give it a go soon! Thanks for the post…..also great pics

  • I’ve never made arepas before but would love to! Care to share your recipe??

  • The first snowstorm of the fall should be here in Colorado tomorrow night and I think this is the perfect meal for it. As far as secrets go, Hannah Simon hit the nail on the head. She should write that down it’s so good.

  • This is gorgeous! Your photo is amazing and I love the sound of this dish (though it’s really really hard to find white grits here in Canada). Is there any difference? As for secrets, I’m not very good at keeping things on the down low. While I keep other’s secrets, it’s hard to keep my own. Everything comes out eventually!

  • Thanks, Jeannette! You can totally swap white grits for regular or even just use polenta. I find that white grits have a milder taste (I believe they’re made of hominy?) In any case, if you can’t find white grits, go ahead and use polenta. Just don’t cook it until it’s too thick. Sounds like you and I are the same kind of secret-keepers 🙂

  • Stay warm, Jess! And, yes, Hannah knows what she’s talking about!

  • This looks really fantastic! Such beautiful comfort food. It’s fun to think of people as treasure troves of secrets 🙂

  • What a delicious dish (and gorgeous pictures too). Keeping others secrets is easy for me, but I can’t keep my own secrets at all. I’m an open book, I guess!

  • Chanterelle mushrooms are the best–literally. My favorite mushroom, too bad they are so expensive 🙁

    This looks so delicious! Thanks for sharing!

  • Thanks, Nicole! We all are, aren’t we? 🙂

  • Thank you so much, Kristen! That means a lot. 🙂 I’m an open book myself…but maybe that’s why we’re bloggers?

  • Laura, I know…I wish they were a little bit more affordable! But, because they’re a luxury, I try to only cook them in a way that puts a square focus on them, as opposed to any other ingredients (for example, I’d never mix them with other mushrooms, or cook them up into a soup). Enjoy!

  • I love your description of this dish, Kasey, and it looks gorgeous. As far as secrets go, I’m also no good at keeping them, although I do keep some chocolates stashed away in my dresser drawer! Because I’m like a grandmother that way.

  • Beautiful post and lovely dish. I love mushrooms and grits and the way you describe how this dish makes you feel is quite appealing.

  • Thanks, Rachel! P.S. you won the giveaway!

  • Meredith Hitchcock

    I made this last night with the sausage added, and it was fabulous! It was my first time buying Chanterelle mushrooms, and they were definitely worth it.

  • I’m so glad you enjoyed the dish, and so glad you now know how amazing chanterelles are. They’re a very special treat in our house 🙂

  • Kate Arends

    Making this TOMORROW! Looks amazing.

    I’m new to Turn Table Kitchen and I can’t wait to scour your archives tonight. Great concept, food and music pair beautifully 🙂

  • Nicole Franzen

    This looks divine! Yes please 🙂 Chantrelles all the time

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