Rekindle your love for a Florida classic, delicious with any saltwater panfish.

Spicy grits meet up with oven-baked, panko-crusted grunt fillet.

*Typical species included in a “grits and grunts” recipe are pinkmouth grunts (AKA white grunt, Steinhatchee snapper), black sea bass, grouper, any member of the porgy tribe, or any firm-fleshed fish. The combination is also an excellent recipe for pesky lionfish, one of our unregulated and most-invasive species.

Spicy Fish and Grits

Ingredients

The Grits

    3 cups water, salted
    1 cup whole milk or half-and-half
    1 cup grits (never instant!)
    3 tbs. double strength tomato paste
    3 tbs. Tabasco sauce
    1 jalapeño pepper, diced

The Fish

  • Boneless, skinless fish fillets (allow 2-3 per serving)
  • Butter, for brushing
  • 2 cups panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tbs. hot paprika
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 tbs. salt
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground pepper

Directions

The Grits

    Bring the water, milk and grits to a boil, and then reduce heat to low. Cook until tender, about 20 minutes, then add tomato paste, Tabasco sauce and sprinkle with the diced pepper.

The Fish

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Pat the fish fillets dry with a paper towel. On a parchment-lined baking sheet, lightly brush fillets with butter. Mix the remaining ingredients and coat the fish. Bake until browned and firm to the touch (Depends on the size of the fillets). Serve over hot grits.

More About the Recipe

On Florida’s Gulf coast, where I was born, raised and still roam, grits are an integral part of all three meals. At breakfast, grits come with eggs, bacon and biscuits. And at any bona fide lunch or dinner that includes fish, they’re the natural side dish. And then came the carpetbaggers, bringing cheese grits.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy cheese grits, made with extra sharp American cheese and served with shrimp. But to me, that’s really a North Carolina recipe from Cary, near Chapel Hill. And while butter, salt and pepper are my standard toppings, I often serve spicy grits, fired up with Tabasco, jalapeños and a bit of tomato paste (for color and some “twang”). That’s especially true when I’m serving firm-fleshed fish like grouper or what are generally categorized as “grunts”*, oven-fried with a spicy Parmesan breading. FS

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