It takes longer to determine the origin of red-eye gravy's name than it does to make it. Some Southerners believe that the gravy takes its name from a man's red-rimmed eyes in the morning or from the reddish hue of certain country hams. Others swear that the name comes from the red-tinted layer of fat that forms on the surface of the gravy.
- 1⁄2 cup stone-ground grits, such as Anson Mills Carolina Quick Grits
- Kosher salt, to taste
- 1 tsp. canola oil
- 2 (2-oz) slices country ham
- 2 tbsp. brewed coffee
- 1⁄8 tsp. sugar
- 1 tbsp. unsalted butter, halved
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
In a 2-quart saucepan, bring grits and 2 cups water to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer. Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until grits are soft and have the consistency of porridge, about 30 minutes. Add kosher salt to taste; cover and keep warm.
Grease a 10" cast-iron or nonstick skillet with 1 tsp. oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add country ham and cook, inverting once, until crisped and golden brown on each side, about 5 minutes. With tongs, transfer the ham to 2 warm plates. Add coffee, 1⁄2 cup water, and sugar to the skillet, scraping up any brown bits with a wooden spoon. Simmer gravy until it has reduced to 1⁄4 cup, 2-3 minutes. (The gravy will be thin and have the color of brackish water.) Ladle gravy over ham. Spoon hot grits into 2 small bowls and top each with a pat of butter and black pepper to taste. Serve hot alongside ham and gravy.