AARP Eye Center
As many restaurant dining rooms are closed or operating at restricted capacity during social distancing restrictions to thwart the coronavirus, we asked six of America's best chefs to bring a taste of dining out to us by sharing their signature recipes. These easy-to-master dishes can be made in your own kitchen and cover all three meals of the day, plus there's a bonus dessert. They'll make sitting down to the table with family extra special during these stay-at-home days.
AARP Membership — $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal
Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine.
Extra-Creamy Cheese Grits
From Chef Ouita Michel, Holly Hill Inn, Midway, Kentucky
Extra cream? Cheese? Yes, please! A 2020 James Beard semifinalist for outstanding restaurateur and a guest judge on Bravo's Top Chef, Michel has made this rich and delicious side dish in the same pot, the same way, every week for the past 20 years. “They are the backbone of our Saturday and Sunday brunch, perfect with our Kentucky-proud pork chops and pork roast,” she says. “We have served them at the James Beard House twice and at many special dinners. These grits are always a hit.”
Here's how to make them for your own weekend brunch. This recipe serves four.
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups milk
- 2 teaspoons salt, or more to taste
- 1 cup stone-ground white grits
- 2 cups grated sharp white cheddar cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Chef's tip: For an extra-rich result, substitute heavy cream for milk. And, please, for the love of all things Southern, no instant grits, she says.
1. Bring water, milk and salt to a hard boil in a heavy 2- to 4-quart pot with a lid.
2. Add grits, reduce heat and stir until they come back to a simmer and the starch begins to develop. Cover the grits and lower the heat as low as possible. Cook for about 30 to 40 minutes. Check them occasionally to make sure they don't scorch on the bottom, but don't stir too frequently.
3. Remove from heat. Add the cheese and cayenne, and taste for salt.
From Executive Chef Mark Levy, The Ivy Hotel, Baltimore
Nothing says stay in your PJs a little longer like quarantine and pancakes, and the latter don't get better than Levy's. “Our ricotta pancakes are unique in texture and flavor, but also feel quite elegant to eat and add a nice elevated touch for a family brunch,” says Levy. “It's truly a VIP pancake.” Levy and the hotel usually offer this signature breakfast item only to overnight guests, but these trying times call for a little rule-breaking. For the first time, they're sharing the recipe. It makes 8 to 10 pancakes.
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1-1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
- 3/4 cup milk (not nonfat)
- 2 large eggs, separated
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Butter, for cooking
1. If your ricotta has a lot of liquid, set it in a fine mesh strainer to drain off the excess about 30 minutes before you start cooking.
2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a small bowl.
3. Combine ricotta, milk, egg yolks and vanilla in a separate, larger mixing bowl.
4. Add the dry ingredients to the ricotta and milk mixture, stirring gently until just combined.
5. Beat the egg whites with a handheld electric mixer until stiff. Alternatively, whisk them by hand. Stir a small scoop of the egg whites into the pancake batter to lighten the batter, then fold in the remaining whites with a spatula.
6. Heat a griddle over medium-high heat. Melt a small bit of butter on the griddle, just enough to coat the surface, then use a 1/3-cup measure to scoop batter for each pancake onto the hot griddle.
7. Cook the pancakes until the undersides are golden and you see a few bubbles popping through the top. Flip the pancakes and cook until golden.
8. Serve immediately, with maple syrup, berry preserves or your topping of choice.