In honor of the fact that this time tomorrow, I will be on a plane to South Carolina to visit the Southern Belle herself… I thought that today I’d talk about making GRITS. Delicious, creamy, cheesy grits.
I know, it likely seems a little weird that the Yankee is posting about grits – but it’s all Crist’s fault, really. Last year, she introduced me to the most amazing restaurant in the history of the world – Rosebank Farms Cafe. I made my first visit to the restaurant when I was in South Carolina for Crist’s wedding, in August of 2010… and then when I visited her again in March of this year, we went TWICE. Two meals in a row, actually (dinner on Friday night, then an early lunch on Saturday… and no, I am not ashamed). I seriously cannot get enough of this place, and their delightful Southern food – fried green tomatoes, homemade pimento cheese, fried chicken, pulled pork… and that was just LUNCH. No, really.
On my first dinner visit, I knew I had to try the Shrimp and Grits. You know, when in Rome, and all that. Let me tell you, I could eat that bowl of shrimp and grits at every meal for the rest of my life. The shrimp were delicious and amazing – but the grits were MIND-BLOWING (yes, that’s right, I’m talking about ground up corn). They were thick and creamy and cheesy and… well, what I’m trying to say is that I would have abandoned my utensils and just stuck my face right into the bowl, if I hadn’t been surrounded by a table full of proper Southern ladies.
Make no mistake – I am not trying to say that MY grits are on the same level as the grits I had at Rosebank. When I achieve that level of grits greatness, I will consider my life a success. But, my foray into grits has been quite successful thus far, so I thought I should share. And please keep in mind – if, when you think of grits, you imagine that white, gloppy, drippy, glue-like substance that is occasionally served alongside a hearty breakfast? We are not talking about the same thing. So, if you think you hate grits, and THOSE are the grits to which you are referring? Try these. I promise you’ll change your mind.
Makes 4 BIG servings
1 1/3 cup stone-ground grits*
4 cups chicken stock (or water, though I think the chicken stock gives more flavor to the final product)*
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 T heavy cream (optional)
3 oz sharp cheddar cheese, grated**
3 oz monterey jack cheese, grated**
*Side note – your bags of grits should give you an appropriate grits:liquid ratio for the particular bag and coarseness of the grits you’re using. These amounts are just the ones on the brand I’ve been using, so check your package of grits before you get started.
**Second side note – I would like to take a moment to ask you to do me a favor. I would like to ask you to please, please, stop buying pre-grated cheese for recipes like this (or, anything, really). Please. I know, it is so much more convenient than grating your own – but for the 3 minutes per recipe that you save by using pre-grated cheese, you are sacrificing A LOT in texture and flavor. The grated stuff in a bag is coated in cornstarch to keep it from clumping up, and that cornstarch also prevents it from melting nicely, and it can make the flavor a little wonky, too. When you grate your own, you a.) save money (the bricks of cheese are totally cheaper than the bags, per ounce), b.) you experience optimum meltiness in your finished dish, and c.) the bicep and forearm in your grating arm get totally ripped. True story. (A quick tip from someone who is wholeheartedly dedicated to grating her own cheese: rinse your grater in super hot water as SOON as you’re done grating. If you let the cheese harden up on it, it’ll be a real pain to wash later… maybe putting a grated with hardened cheese into a dishwasher isn’t a problem, but I WOULDN’T KNOW, now would I?)
1.) Start by rinsing your grits. Put the grits into a large bowl, and cover them with water (until the water is about an inch above the top of the grits). Stir them up a bit, and allow them to settle. Pour off the water, and that will take with it all the little pieces of hull that are floating at the top, that you don’t want to eat.
2.) Once your grits are rinsed, put them into a medium pot with the chicken stock, over medium heat. Stir occasionally, and allow them to come to a boil.
3.) Once the mixture has reached a boil, reduce to a simmer, and add your salt and pepper. Stir occasionally as they simmer. They should take about 20-25 minutes to be fully cooked – taste test them as you go. If the texture is like eating tiny rocks, they’re not done. You want them to be soft enough to eat, but not mushy.
4.) When you’ve determined that the grits are done, pour in your heavy cream (if using). I make these with and without the heavy cream, and they’re delicious both ways – the cream just adds a touch more creaminess and richness to them. Stir the cream in, and let that cook into the grits for a few minutes.
5.) Add your cheese! I like to use a combination of cheddar and monterey jack – the cheddar adds great sharpness, but it’s not the best melting cheese in the world, so the monterey jack (which is milder, but melts beautifully) helps keep things smooth. I use about 3oz of each, but you can use a little more or a little less if you’d like. Stir it all in until it’s melted and distributed evenly.
And then you’re done! You can serve these up in a million ways – in my house, we usually eat them in one of three ways: with grilled, bbq shrimp or chicken on top, alongside smoked chicken sausages, or with a fried egg on top and bacon on the side. If you prefer to eat your grits straight out of the pot with a big spoon… there is no judgement here.
I would like to state for the record that my husband politely informed me the photos I had taken of the finished product didn’t look very… appetizing. I apologize, I really do, and I hope that you will trust me when I saw that these grits are way more delicious than they look. It’s just… it was a Friday night, I had to work late, there was no light at all in my kitchen, I knew I needed to take a photo for this post… and I just wanted to sit down and eat some damn grits in my sweatpants, ok? I apologize for putting my grits needs ahead of photo quality, sincerely.
Now. Go forth and eat grits!