Chef Sean Brock of McCrady’s in Charleston, S.C., is in town, and he visited my office. To overgeneralize, he used to be big into the molecular gastronomy, but now his focus is on using local and natural things.
He’s also breeding some pigs and raising rare varieties of vegetables in the interest of preserving their seeds as well as eating them.
Among those vegetables is Jimmy Red corn. Also known as James Island Red, Sean says it was nearly extinct, but he has raised a fair amount of it now, preserving some for seed, but cooking some, too.
He wanted to make grits, but he didn’t have a mill to grind his Jimmy Red.
Now, Sean says the key to making good grits is to have a cold mill, because if you heat the corn you damage the flavor and even run the risk of scorching it.
Sean didn’t have a mill, but he did have a tank of liquid nitrogen. Anyone who has played with nitrogen knows that things frozen to that low a temperature become brittle. So he froze the corn, pulsed it quickly in a high-powered blender and sifted it, separating the corn meal from the hominy. The latter he used to make grits.