new comfort food: pork n’ grits


Sliced pork tenderloin over creamy parmesan grits and wilted baby spinach, topped with fiery sweet barbecue sauce

Things are really on the up and up for us here at Gravy Central lately.  The Gravy Baby turns 5 months old today, and he’s averaging between 11-13 hours of sleep a night, which means that the hubby and I have a little bit of time in the evenings to wind down and catch up with each other.  It also means that I’m not bleary-eyed and dazed during the day, and I find myself with the time and energy not only to tote a 20-pound adorable sack of potatoes all over town, but I’m also trying to cook new dishes in the kitchen again.

Above, left: grits on a spoon; above right: roasted pork tenderloin resting after roasting

Last week, I was really in the mood for comfort food, so I roasted a pork tenderloin with a fiery and sweet barbecue sauce from the Lee Brothers, my favorite Southern cookbook.  I paired it with creamy Parmesan grits and a bunch of sauteed baby spinach and plated everything all together so it became one cheesy, creamy, spicy, sweet and crunchy pile of goodness.

As we were winding down and recounting our day to each other later that night, the hubby told me that it wasn’t the meal he was expecting to come home to that night (read: I’m so glad you didn’t make me a big salad for the third night in a row), but it totally felt comforting and right.  I took the compliment, but at the same time, it’s hard to feel wrong about indulging in cheesy grits.  Those are good anytime, in my book.

Fiery Roasted Pork Tenderloin (adapted from The Lee Brothers Southern Cookbook)

1/3 cup bourbon (I love cooking with Bulleit Bourbon, but really any will do)
1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
1 jalapeno pepper (the original recipe calls for habanero, but I have a hard time getting habaneros in my neck of the woods)
1 teaspoon finely grated garlic
2 3/4-pound pork tenderloins
3/4 cup sorghum molasses (I used regular molasses, but I think dark brown sugar would’ve worked fine as a substitute as well)
1/4 cup ketchup
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil

Combine the bourbon, water, vinegar, ginger, chile and garlic in a bowl.  Add the pork tenderloins and turn to coat.  Marinate for one hour, turning every 15-20 minutes.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees (around 225 degrees Celsius).  Remove pork from marinade, brushing off excess.  In a saucepan, pour excess marinade and reduce by 1/3rd.  Add ketchup and molasses and simmer until thick.

Heat an ovenproof skillet over high heat.  Coat pork tenderloins with olive oil and sear until browned, about 3-4 minutes per side.  Pour sauce over pork and immediately slide into oven, baking for 15-20 minutes or until a thermometer measures the internal temp between 145-150 degrees Fahrenheit (note: the Lee Brothers recipe doesn’t say when to pull the pork out of the oven, but I find that using a meat thermometer for roasting meats to be absolutely essential to ensuring the perfect doneness).  Let pork rest for 10 minutes, then carve against the grain into thick slices.

Creamy Parmesan Grits

1 1/3 cups stone-ground grits
4 cups water
1 cup finely grated Parmesan
1/2 milk
2 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper to taste

Rinse grits, removing husks that float to the top.  Place in a small saucepan and add water.  Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently, and reduce heat to a low simmer immediately after the grits and water reach a rolling boil.  Continue simmering for 15-20 minutes until water is almost completely absorbed into the grits, then add butter and milk.  Simmer an additional 5-10 minutes until the grits are creamy and thick; add salt and pepper to taste.

Sauteed Baby Spinach

1 clove garlic, minced
3/4 pound to 1 pound baby spinach, rinsed and shaken dry
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Over medium-high heat, saute garlic in olive oil for about 1 minute.  Add spinach and saute until just wilted.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve immediately.



  1. Rachael M says

    This looks amazing! I have to try making it! :-) Thanks for the recipes!