A Durham Chef Resurrects a Mythical Two times-Baked Grits Soufflé—and Stocks the Recipe for the First Moment - Grassland & Gun


Time running as a tender chef making his identify in Durham, North Carolina, Matt Kelly dined on the venerable Magnolia Grill and tasted a dish from chef Ben Barker that blew his thoughts. “I put my spoon in it and to this day, I remember that first bite,” Kelly says. “I kept eating, and when I was done I ordered another one because it was the best dish I’d ever had.” Twelve years in the past, Magnolia Grill closed its doorways, and that holy-grail recipe, a twice-baked grits soufflé, disappeared with it—till now. 

Kelly went directly to develop into a Durham icon in his personal proper, heading up celebrated spots like Vin Rouge, Mateo, St. James Seafood, and Moms & Sons. On the finish of ultimate date, he reopened Nanas, a loved fine-dining spot that hadn’t survived the pandemic—however prior to opening hour rolled round, he made a telephone name. “He said, ‘I want to do something like your soufflé on the menu at Nana’s,’” Barker recollects. “I said, ‘You know what, Matt? I’ll give you the recipe.’ And the phone just went silent for a minute.” 

photograph: D.L. Anderson

Chef Matt Kelly.

Undesirable to mention, Kelly approved the do business in (“my eyes were watering a little”). However as recipes walk, the twice-baked grits soufflé as Barker makes it isn't precisely user-friendly. The grits are lightened up with whipped egg whites. There's a mushroom emulsion, a Vidalia onion puree, a sherry French dressing, and a melted confit of foie gras on manage. “I’ve only made the dish once since we closed the restaurant, because it has so many steps,” Barker admits. “And we definitely had a love-hate relationship with it while we were open.” The outcome, although, is significance it. “You put it in your mouth and it lasts so long on your palate,” Kelly says. “You have all these perfect textures and complementary flavors and layers of savoriness.”

A recipe like this one doesn’t materialize in a single day. “Its story tells you a lot about how dishes coalesce and come together,” Barker says. He and his spouse, Karen, become particularly focused on grits next Magnolia Grill’s grits cake with asparagus, morels, and nation ham won a countrywide highlight. They experimented with the usage of them because the bottom for a twice-baked cheese soufflé from Richard Olney’s landmark cookbook Easy French Meals, one thing they'd cooked on the Fearrington Area prior to opening Magnolia Grill. From there, they added regional touches, just like the Vidalia onions, and tweaked and fiddled till they landed on the very best aggregate. “We must have made 15,000 of them while Magnolia Grill was open,” Barker says. “It was the most re-ordered dish on the menu, which says a lot.” (Much more tellingly, Magnolia Grill busboys old to grasp hunks of bread to sop up the tacky, creamy leftovers from ramekins coming again into the kitchen.)

Now, with a couple of tweaks, it lives on at Nana’s—with credit score to Barker—and is already gaining a following there, too. “I’m proud to serve it because Magnolia Grill was such a landmark restaurant in the South,” Kelly says. “Nanas is all about telling stories, and that means bringing new dishes to the table and keeping other dishes like this one alive.” 

Underneath, to find an tailored, extra approachable model of the recipe, which hasn't ever been shared prior to. 

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