Baked Grits with Parmesan Sauce, Mushrooms and Ham
- 4 cups water, preferably spring water
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup yellow stone-ground grits, preferably organic
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- Freshly ground white pepper
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1/4 cup sherry vinegar, or to taste
- 2 shallots, minced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 dried red chile pepper
- 1 to 2 ounces finely diced country ham (trimmings, end pieces and scraps are fine)
- 1 tablespoon heavy cream
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- 2 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- Fresh lemon juice
- Hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco or Cholula
- Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper
MUSHROOMS AND HAM:
For the grits: In a large heavy saucepan, bring the water and salt to a boil. Stirring with a wooden spoon, slowly add the grits in a slow, steady stream. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until thickened and tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and Parmigiano. Stir in white pepper to taste. Stir in the egg.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter eight to ten 4- to 6-ounce ramekins.
Divide the grits among the buttered ramekins and place the ramekins in a large baking pan. Add enough hot water to the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover the pan with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and bake until the tops are crusty and begin to brown, about 20 minutes longer.
For the Parmesan sauce: In a medium saute pan, combine the wine, vinegar, shallots, bay leaf, chile pepper and diced ham and bring to a boil. Adjust the heat and simmer until only 1 tablespoon of liquid remains. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the cream. Whisk in the butter bit by bit, adding a new piece as the previous one is incorporated. Strain the sauce into a saucepan. Add the Parmigiano. Season the sauce with lemon juice, hot pepper sauce and salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm.
For the mushrooms and ham: Heat the oil in a small saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the julienned ham, mushrooms and shallot and cook until the mushrooms are barely tender, 3 to 4 minutes.
To serve, unmold the grits onto plates and turn browned side up. Ladle a little Parmesan sauce around the grits and top with the ham and mushrooms. Garnish with thyme leaves.