A Southern Breakfast
Breakfast doesn’t get any more down-home than this: fluffy scrambled eggs; salty ham with coffee-infused red-eye gravy; creamy, cheesy grits and tender, flaky buttermilk biscuits. Coordinating all of the components will bring out your inner short-order cook. Read the entire recipe before you begin, so all the steps go smoothly.
For the buttermilk biscuits:
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup cake flour
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
- 6 Tbs. chilled unsalted butter, plus more for serving
- 3/4 cup buttermilk
- 2 cups water
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 3/4 cup old-fashioned white hominy grits, preferably stone-ground
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
- 5 Tbs. unsalted butter
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 smoked ham steak, about 1 1⁄4 lb.
- 3/4 cup brewed coffee
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 8 large eggs
- 1/3 cup heavy cream or whole milk
- 1/8 tsp. freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Preheat an oven to 400°F. Have ready an ungreased rimmed baking sheet.
In a bowl, sift together the all-purpose and cake flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut the butter into tablespoons and scatter over the flour mixture. Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut the butter into the flour mixture just until the mixture forms coarse crumbs the size of peas. Add the buttermilk and stir just until the dough comes together. Knead the dough a few times in the bowl.
Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Using a light touch, pat out the dough into a round 3/4 inch thick. Using a 2 1/2-inch round biscuit cutter or cookie cutter, cut out as many rounds as possible. Place them 1 inch apart on the baking sheet. Gather up the dough scraps, pat them out again, cut out more dough rounds, and add them to the baking sheet. Bake the biscuits until they have risen and are golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes.
While the biscuits are baking, begin cooking the grits. In a heatproof bowl, whisk together the water, milk, grits and 1/4 tsp. of the salt. Fill a saucepan with water to a depth of 1 inch and bring to a steady simmer. Rest the bowl in the top of the pan over (not touching) the water. Cook the grits, whisking occasionally, until tender and thickened into a porridge, 30 to 60 minutes, depending on the grits and according to package directions.
While the grits are cooking, in a large, heavy frying pan, preferably cast iron, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring often, until fragrant but not browned, about 1 minute. Scrape the butter and garlic into a small bowl and set aside.
In the same pan, when the grits are about 10 minutes from being done, melt another tablespoon of the butter over medium-high heat. Add the ham steak and cook until the bottom is browned, 3 minutes. Turn and brown the other side, 2 minutes more. Transfer the ham to a platter and cover to keep warm. Pour out all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the pan. Add the coffee and sugar and bring to a boil over high heat, scraping up the browned bits with a wooden spatula. Cook until the liquid is reduced by half (it will be thin gravy), 3 minutes. Remove from the heat.
While the gravy is simmering, make the scrambled eggs. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, the remaining 1/4 tsp. salt and the pepper just until blended. In a nonstick frying pan, heat the remaining 3 Tbs. butter over medium-low heat. Pour in the eggs and cook until they begin to set, about 20 seconds. Stir with a heatproof spatula, scraping up the eggs on the bottom and sides of the pan and folding them toward the center. Repeat until the eggs are barely cooked into moist curds. Remove the pan from the heat and let the eggs stand in the pan to allow the residual heat to finish cooking them, about 1 minute.
When the grits are ready, add the reserved garlic-butter mixture and cheddar and stir to combine. To serve, slice the ham and divide the ham, grits and eggs among individual plates. Drizzle the ham with the gravy. Serve hot, with the biscuits. Serves 4.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Comfort Food, by Rick Rodgers (Oxmoor House, 2009).