During my near-30 years on this Earth, I have lived in just four places. The first eighteen were spent in my hometown of Traverse City, Michigan. I then lived in Dublin, Ireland for four years, which is where I met the Big Man. In 2006, we moved from Ireland to America, where we lived in Baltimore, Maryland for five. We’ve been in New York City now for a little over two years. In every new place, there’s always that adjustment period, a time of settling in and getting used to a city’s customs and people, before properly calling myself a “local”. There is usually one specific moment where something happens and then it hits me- I am a true local now. I am from this place.
In Dublin, that moment came for me the first time an Irish person stopped and asked me for directions. I cannot convey strongly enough how thrilling this was for me. In my experience, the Irish have a finely honed eye for spotting Americans. Typically, they can spot one coming at fifty yards. So when this Irish lady- not one from Dublin, admittedly, but from the countryside- asked me which direction Capel Street was from where we were, I positively glowed while pointing her along. She thought I was Irish! Or at least Irish enough to know where the hell I was going!
In Baltimore, my “local” moment came once the farmers in the Farmer’s Market started recognizing me as a regular customer. Or, better yet, when I found myself rocking a purple jersey and screaming like a wackjob at the top of my lungs, “I WILL PROTECT THIS HOUUUUUSE!” with 80,000 other wackjobs at M&T Bank Stadium for a Ravens game.
Last week, my New York moment came, but unfortunately it was not a proud moment like the others. See, I had been having a good day. A really good day. I was on my way home from work and had just gotten a manicure. On the train, my Samsung Galaxy had played nonstop hits on shuffle (I never had to skip a song! It was a Shuffle Miracle!) I came up out of the subway singing to myself, happy to go home to a fridge full of fresh ingredients and a well-stocked DVR. I had grand plans for a new grits recipe I’d just perfected, to serve with a spicy chorizo stew. I stood at the corner across from my apartment, humming a little and waiting for the lights to change. As soon as they went from red to green, I stepped off the curb and -BAM!- a kamikaze delivery guy on a bicycle riding a hundred miles an hour and going the wrong way on a one way street slammed in to me. Without even thinking, I hauled off and swung at him, thankfully missing his head, and screamed, “WRONG F***ING WAY, ASSHOLE!” He dodged my swing and kept on pedaling. No one standing near us batted an eyelash. I straightened my handbag, brushed my hair off my face and took a deep breath. I had had “the” moment. A true New York, “I’m walking here”, kind of moment. And it hadn’t even ruined my good mood. I don’t know what you might call it, but I’m calling it local.
This is a city full of wackjobs, and I’m proud to say I’m one of them now.
chorizo stew with creamy grits
If you need to reheat the grits, make sure to do it on the stovetop rather than the microwave for better results. Add a bit of water or milk and stir as it heats until you have your desired consistency.
For the chorizo, feel free to substitute any pork sausage here-a spicy Italian works great.
For the toasted flour: I got this idea from the chili gumbo recipe on food52, which I tested a few weeks ago. I can’t believe I never thought to toast flour in large batches. Heat the oven to 400*F, and put 2 cups of flour – or however much you choose- in a cake pan. Toast the flour in the oven, shaking the pan and stirring the flour often so it toasts evenly. It’s ready when it turns a dark tan color. Will keep for a couple of months in a tightly covered container in the cupboard.
for the grits:
3 tablespoons butter
2 cups stone-ground corn grits
1 cup chicken stock
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups milk
2 cups water
for the stew:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound of chorizo sausage with no casings
1 large russet potato, diced (about 1 ½ cups when diced)
1 medium onion, diced (about 1 ½ cups when diced)
1 red pepper, diced
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
5 cloves garlic
1 cup tomato puree
4 tablespoons toasted flour (see note)
2 cups water
2 cups beef stock
for the grits: Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the grits and stir to coat with the butter. Let the grits toast a little over the heat (about 1 minute) then add the chicken stock, heavy cream, milk and water and stir well to combine. Let the mixture come to a boil, then reduce the heat to very low and cook for about 45 minutes, stirring often so as not to let the grits stick to the bottom of the pan.
The grits will slowly absorb the liquid and cook down to the desired consistency, which is like a very smooth, al dente, milky paste.
for the stew: While the grits are cooking, heat olive oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Once it starts shimmering, add the chorizo. Cook until the chorizo has browned, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Remove the chorizo and set aside, reserving as much of the fat and oil in the pan as possible.
Add the potato and onion to the pan and cook until they have just started to soften. Add the apple vinegar and lightly deglaze the pan, scraping up as much as you can off the bottom.
Add the toasted flour and the red pepper and cook until the pepper softens, then add back the sausage.
Add the tomato puree, water, beef stock and garlic and stir to combine. Turn the heat down to low and let simmer for one hour, or until the stew has reduced to very thick.