Allow me to be the first to stand up and say, “I am a freak.” To be specific, I am a “coffee freak.” I do everything I can to buy the freshest beans possible, perfectly roasted and properly stored. The beans are then ground at the instant that I am ready to add the “just below boiling” water to the French press that holds them (coarsely ground), wait five minutes, push the plunger down, pour into my favorite mug, and enjoy (black of course). The flavor is deep and rich due to the longer soak in the water (versus a drip style machine), and the caffeine slightly higher.
Being this masochistic, I have a hard time living with myself when there is a cup or so left in the French press at the end of the day. Dare I pour it down the drain? It has been sitting soaking in my ground coffee all day long. Sure, I could warm it up and down it at 11:30 before going to bed, er, trying to go to bed. Waste not, sleep not. I mean want not. “But I am a chef and a coffee lover,” I confess. Is there anything that I can do with this coffee?
Just at the moment I ask this, the memories of magnolia trees, night-blooming jasmine, stone-ground grits and South Carolina summers returns from my “Carolina years.” They don’t necessarily know what good coffee is down there, but they do have a little trick for leftover coffee and are as equally masochistic about grits as I am about coffee. Their trick is none other than “red eye” gravy, the perfect condiment for pan-fried country ham, biscuits and grits. After frying the ham, black coffee (a little sugar if you must) is added to the pan drippings and reduced to make “red eye” gravy.
For my leftover coffee’s sake, I thought I’d give it a try, even though finding the necessary ingredients North of the Mason Dixon line would be difficult. I had to use fresh pork chops, and since they didn’t have too much fat (which is a requirement for red eye gravy), I had to finish the sauce with butter. Finding stone ground (not par-cooked) grits was a bit of a challenge, but I succeeded. And the leftover coffee, well that seems to happen almost daily.
The alarm sounded and I woke up to make my South Carolina breakfast. In the middle of making the meal, I realized that I solved my problem of leftover coffee. Now I would just have to wake up an hour earlier to make the grits. Sheesh……good food truly is a labor of love.
Cast Iron Pork Chops, Stone Ground Grits, Espresso Roast “Red Eye” Gravy
2 Thick Cut Pork Chops, Preferably Bone-In From The Loin
8 oz Stone Ground Grits
3 Cups Chicken Stock
1 Cup Whole Milk (or Heavy Cream)
2 oz Unsalted Butter
1 Cup Leftover Coffee
4 Ounces Whole Butter, Unsalted, At Room Temperature
1 oz Clarified Butter
1 TBSP Dark Brown Sugar
Salt and Pepper
Bring chicken stock to a boil in a saucepan. When boiling, whisk in the grits (must be stirred constantly!). Lower heat to so that the mixture is just below the point of simmering. Continue stirring. As the grits absorb the liquid, add heavy cream or milk. Cook over low heat until grits are tender, about 30 minutes. Stir in the butter, season with salt and pepper.
Red Eye Gravy
Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat. Season the pork chops with salt and pepper and sear the chops in the clarified butter on both sides. Finish cooking them in an oven at 400°F. Remove them from the pan and set them aside to rest. Return the pan to high heat and deglaze with coffee. Add the sugar and reduce the coffee by half. Mount the sauce with the butter.