Creamy Cheddar Grits Grits are frequently ignored, at least here in the North, but I think that is only because they are misunderstood, which is likely the result of the only ones we can find in our grocery stores in the cylinder shaped tube-box. Those are not grits, at least not the type I’m making here. (They may be fantastic for making edible paste though. Oooohhhh, that was mean, I’m sorry.) Anyway, as with all cooking, you must begin with good ingredients and that can be no more true than with grits. They must must must be long-cooking, stone ground grits. I order mine (thanks to my wonderful husband, Tony) online from Zingermans (www.zingermans.com), specifically “Zingerman’s Heriloom Organic Corn Grits from South Carolina, slow cooking”. Yep, that’s all on the front of the bag (I’ll post a picture if I can.) And before you groan at the Zingerman’s plug, please know, that I have no connection whatsoever to the company, I’m just a fan and they wouldn’t know me from Eve.
That being out-of-the-way, the back of the grit bag explains it best, and now I quote, “Heirloom corn, grown organically by the folks at Anson Mills in South Carolina. Field dried then stone ground to retain their natural germ – and flavor – they’re the tastiest grits around. With wonderful, complex corn flavor that needs little more than butter and salt to make a superb meal or a side dish any time of the day.” I couldn’t have explained it better myself, so I didn’t. That’s it in a corn-shell. (Goan now.)
Okay now to my recipe. It is true, these can be fantastic with just butter and salt, so keep that in mind. They can also be terrific many other ways and as with a lot of cooking, once you have a good technique for making the base recipe, it becomes your canvas for anything else.
BASIC GRITS AS PICTURED
1 c. Quality stone ground grits. (If you use quick cooking from a tube box, don’t blame me when they do not turn out well or have no flavor. Just sayin’.)
3 1/2 c. Whole milk
1/2 c. Heavy cream
1 c. Shredded New York cheddar
1/4 c. sliced scallions
1/4 c. unsalted butter (I always use unsalted butter, you can always add your own, but it’s really hard to remove salt from a recipe. Save the salted for your toast.)
(optional) top with Maple Syrup & Bacon
1. Add the milk, cream, butter and sprinkle in the grits while stirring to a dutch oven (if you have one) or a nice heavy bottomed pot with a lid if you do not. Stir and make sure you do not have any lumps or clumps of grits.
2. Heat slowly, over medium low heat, stirring frequently until you reach a soft boil.
3. Stir again, cover, reduce heat to simmer and set your timer for 15 minutes. For the next hour and a half to two hours, you will be stirring every 15 minutes, so use your timer so you don’t forget. If you find the grits sticking to the bottom of the pot, turn down the heat and keep going.
4. At the end of the 1 1/2 or 2 hours (depending on how much time you have, the longer the better), turn off the heat and add the cheese and scallions.
Taste, if it needs salt (the cheese will add a significant amount), add it a bit at a time.
5. Spoon onto your serving plates and top with a little more butter, maple syrup and a piece of bacon. If you family enjoys bacon, crumble it right into the grits.
Making great bacon:
1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
2. Place a tightly woven bakers rack over a baking tray, spray with non-stick product and lay out your bacon.
3. Depending on the thickness of the bacon, bake for 25 – 45 minutes. Just keep checking every 5 minutes after the 25 minute mark.
4. Remove from over and set aside, leaving it on the rack. Just before serving, put it under the broiler (wire rack in mid oven, not top), and with the door cracked open, re-heat for about 5 minutes. It will be crispy again. (*If you do not re-heat under the broiler, it will stick to the rack. Either lift for a moment when it comes out of the oven to prevent sticking, or re-heat, which will also release it from the wire.)
Grits are a good substitute for almost anything you would serve with a potato. That being said, the important thing about grits is to cook them with enough liquid, and long enough. They are the perfect food, as you can open the lid, stir, and continue to add liquid many times over. Honestly, the only way you can ruin grits is to not pay attention and let them dry out and burn. Anything short of an all-out burn and they can be saved. That’s where technique comes in, so here is another version that I use when I’m serving grits for dinner with a meat source.
Option 1 (Option 2)
1 c. Grits
1 shallot (or 4 cloves garlic)
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter (or 2 T. butter and 2 T. olive oil)
4 c. chicken stock (or 3 c. Chicken Stock and 1 c. dry white wine)
1/2 c. fontina cheese, rough chopped or pulled to small pieces so it melts (or Dubliner cheese – my favorite, it adds a bit of nuttiness and smooth and melts well)
1/2 c. chopped parsley (or 1 c. arugula, not chopped – my favorite)
S&P, mostly P, to taste.
1. Sautee 1 shallot or a few cloves of chopped garlic in butter (or a butter/olive oil mix) in a dutch oven over medium low heat just until soft.
2. Add your grits, stir to incorporate.
3. Add all of the liquid, stir, bring to a slow boil, stir, turn the heat down to simmer and cover.
4. Stir every 15 minutes.
5. After 1 1/2 -2 hours, turn off heat, stir in your cheese and cover for about 5 minutes until the cheese melts.
6. Add your herbs or greens of choice.
7. Taste. Add salt, pepper to taste.
Follow these techniques and make Grits Your Way! If you are willing to share, add your variations to the comments!