This is, in my humble opinion, one of the greatest dishes in New Orleans. Chef Frank Brigtsen of Brigtsen's Restaurant uptown has created a dish of simple parts combined into a complex whole that tastes absolutely scrumptious. It's usually served as an appetizer, perhaps his signature appetizer, but it's also available as a main course.
One of Chef Brigtsen's little "secrets", that he revealed during a food demonstration at Jazzfest, is that he uses Chef Paul Prudhomme's Magic seasoning blends quite extensively ... which isn't surprising, as he trained in the kitchen at K-Paul's.
Heat the butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the tasso and cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Add the water and salt and bring to a boil.
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup ground tasso (substitute smoked ham only if you must)
- 5 cups water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1-1/2 cups white or yellow grits
- 2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cups Creole mustard sauce
- 6 rabbit tenderloins, seasoned with 2 tablespoons of Paul Prudhomme's Pork & Veal Magic seasoning)
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 6 cups fresh spinach, de-stemmed and washed
- Salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
Slowly add the grits, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to very low and cook until the grits are done, 5-7 minutes. The grits should be stiff and not runny.
Remove from the heat and add the cheese, stirring until thoroughly incorporated. Brush a 9x12-inch baking pan with olive oil and transfer the grits mixture to the baking pan. Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, about 1 hour. Cut the grits cakes into 3 inch square or diamond shapes.
To cook the grits cakes, heat a flat-top griddle or non-stick skillet over medium heat. Brush both sides of each grits cake with a little bit of olive oil. Cook the grits cakes for 3-4 minutes on each side until brown and crispy.
Prepare the Creole mustard sauce, and keep warm.
Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Season each rabbit tenderloin with about 1/2 teaspoon of the Magic seasoning. Put the flour into a shallow pan and season with 1 teaspoon of the Magic seasoning. When the oil is hot, add the tenderloins and cook about 2-3 minutes on each side. Remove the tenderloins and place them on a paper towel to drain. Discard the oil and add the spinach. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
To serve: On each serving plate, put 1/4 cup of the Creole mustard sauce, 1 grits cake, spinach and 1 rabbit tenderloin. Serve immediately.
Yield: 6 servings.
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Chuck Taggart (e-mail chuck)