Pecans are finely ground and cooked together with stone-ground grits until creamy and tender, then pureed roasted squash (acorn squash, butternut, pumpkin) is folded in. The bowl is garnished with shaved cheese and toasted pecans.
3/4 cup pecan halves
1 medium butternut squash (about 1½ lbs)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon plus
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup stone-ground grits
4 cups water, plus more as needed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, more for garnish
1. Preheat oven to 300˚F. Scatter pecan pieces on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until toasted and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Remove and allow to cool completely. Reserve 1/4 cup of the pecan halves for garnish.
2. By hand or in a food processor, mince the remaining 1/2 cup pecans - you are looking for a texture roughly the same as the stone-ground grits.
3. Increase oven temperature to 400˚F. Peel squash and scoop out the seeds. Dice squash and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place on a sheet pan lined with foil. Roast until tender and golden brown, about 45-60 minutes. Let cool.
4. Bring water to a simmer in a large heavy-bottomed pot. Whisk in grits and ground pecans and season with 1 tablespoon salt. Reduce heat to low and cook at a gentle simmer until tender, about 30-40 minutes, adding a little extra water as needed as it cooks.
5. Puree the cooled squash in a food processor or blender until smooth (you should end up with a heaping 1 cup puree; if you have a lot more, reserve extra for another use). Fold squash puree into the cooked grits. Stir in parmesan, transfer to a serving bowl, and keep warm.
6. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a small skillet and cook until rich and brown with a strong nutty aroma (watch closely as it can easily burn). As soon as the butter is browned, stir in reserved pecans, then pour browned-butter-pecan mixture over top of the grits.
Garnish with extra parmesan.