Creativity is hard. Really.
I put a lot of pressure on myself to do and be my best. It comes from my father. Growing up he would expect me to be the best, no exceptions. For example, I struggled with math when I was in school. I had to study very hard and diligently to understand even the most basic concepts. When I had a big exam coming I would study each night, training hard to remember how to solve each different type of equation. Usually I did well, but well was not enough. Let’s say I brought home a math test where I scored 95% (a very good score for me). My mother would be thrilled knowing how hard I worked. My father would ask me, “If you were in an airplane and it only made it 95% of the way to the destination, would you be satisfied?” When put into those terms it was hard to be happy with less than 100%. This mentality has followed me into adulthood. I want to be the best I can be in whatever field I am working in, and nothing short of my best is a major disappointment. You may wonder who is grading me? What standard am I looking to when measuring success? I am judged only by myself and my own ridiculously high standards. And they are ridiculous, just ask Mr. Shenanigans and he will be glad to tell you.
So, when I say creativity is hard I look at it from a couple of perspectives. First, there is nothing new under the sun. It is hard to find new and exciting ways to prepare food because humanity has been preparing food since the dawn of our evolution. How many ways can one make a blueberry muffin unique? What makes my apple pie any better and more exciting that the other million or so recipes for apple pie out there? If I can’t find a way to make something really and truly unique, better, or more fun I won’t post it for the blog. Second, how can I make a recipe that will look and taste as good for you, my darling readers, as it does for me? Success for you is important to me. I want you to feel like you can make my recipes and have then turn out as well, if not better, than mine. I am often so focused on the perfect look that I discount taste because we eat first with our eyes, and on a blog you look at the photos. A pile of ugly brown food, even if it tasted amazing, isn’t likely to inspire many to make it.
Well, today I tucked away part of my neurosis for perfection. This is a big step kids! The recipe I present to you almost made it into the rubbish bin. These cheesy grits cups didn’t look the exact way I wanted. In my mind I wanted smooth grits on the outside, and a perfectly centered yolk on the top. I was prepared to shove this idea aside because they looked a little too rough … until I took a bite. These may not look like my ideal with their rough edges and dimpled eggs, but they taste amazing! They are a complete meal in one handy cup, and even better they can be made ahead and reheated in the oven or microwave for breakfast all week!
Here are my little secrets for this recipe. First, use a good non-stick pan and spray it generously with non-stick spray. Some of the grits will stick even with all these precautions, and that is ok. There is something I have grown to find appealing about the somewhat rough edges of these little cups. Second, use very good quality organic, pasture-raised eggs. Aside from being much more humane for the chickens – and we should be kind to our food don’t you think – the eggs are rich in flavor and have startlingly yellow yolks! They look nice, and taste even better! Finally, par-cook the bacon before adding it to your cups. You want the bacon cooked but not crisp. The cups do not bake long enough to cook the bacon from raw, but if you use well cooked bacon it will not lay in the cups nicely, and it might over-cook or even burn while baking. Partially cooking it will make sure it is perfectly cooked – tender on the inside of the cups and crisp on the outside.
- 1 cup milk, 2% or higher
- 1 cup water
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 teaspoons hot sauce
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper, plus more for garnish
- ⅔ cup quick cooking grits (not instant)
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided
- 8 strips thick cut bacon
- 8 eggs
- Non-stick cooking spray
- 2 tablespoons fresh chopped chives
- In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat combine the milk, water, butter, hot sauce, salt, and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring often, then reduce the heat to medium-low and slowly whisk in the grits. Cook until the grits are very thick, about 5 minutes. Stir in half the shredded cheese, then remove the pot form the heat and allow the grits to cool for 10 minutes.
- Heat the oven to 375°F.
- While the grits cool, par-cook the bacon. Place the bacon between layers of paper towels and cook for 3 minutes. The bacon should be just cooked, but still soft. Cut the strips in half and set aside.
- Spray 8 cups of a non-stick cupcake or muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray. Divide the cooked grits into each of the cups. With your fingers press the grits up the sides of the cups. Bake for 10 minutes, or until the grits are firm and slightly crusty.
- Remove the grits from the oven and place two pieces of bacon into the cups in an 'X' pattern. Top with the remaining shredded cheese, then crack an egg into each cup. Spray the tops of the eggs with non-stick cooking spray, then return to the oven for 12-15 minutes, depending on how well done you prefer your egg.
- Once baked, cool for 2 minutes, then run a paring knife around each cup. Cool for an additional 5 minutes, then carefully remove the cups from the pan. Some of the grits may stick, that is ok.
- Garnish the cups with fresh chives before serving.