Every time someone mentions in my presence that they don’t like grits, I have to struggle not to look at them as if they are an alien.
Seriously, what’s not to like? We aren’t talking about something strongly flavored, such as brussels sprouts. Or something that once had big, soft eyes, such as venison. Or even something that once filtered the waste out of a body system, such as liver or kidneys. Grits come from corn. They’re cooked in water or milk, like hot cereal. Basically, they are baby food.
I don’t disparage anyone for having personal preferences, though – Lord knows I have some bizarre preferences. But this blog entry is for all of my fellow grits lovers, and it’s about a new cookbook from Southern Living magazine called “Glorious Grits: Fresh, Flavorful Recipes for Grits, Cornmeal & Polenta.”
Grits are just fine with a pat of butter, a spoonful of apple butter, some cheese or a topping of shrimp. But boy, just imagine the wondrous possibilities for new recipes. Especially with talented chefs across the country finally learning to appreciate what we Southerners have appreciated all along. Examples from the book: Mini grits quiche cups, a grits frittata with herbs and shallots, grits primavera or even a pecan-grits pie!
Before I share a recipe or two, a few definitions from “Food Lover’s Companion”:
Grits: Commonly used to refer to hominy grits, but grits can actually be coarsely ground corn, oats, rice, etc. Cooked in water or milk and served as a side dish, usually at breakfast.
Groats: Generally thought to be a coarser grind than grits, but actually the two words are synonymous, because grits can come in a variety of grinds, from fine to coarse.
Cornmeal: Dried corn kernels that have been ground into one of three textures: fine, medium or coarse.
Polenta: A staple of Italy. A mush made from cornmeal that can be eaten hot or cooled until firm, then sliced and fried.
4 cups water
1 tsp. salt
1 cup uncooked stone-ground yellow or white grits
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 Tbsp. julienne-cut fresh basil
1 1/2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup matchstick carrots
1 cup julienne-cut green bell pepper
1 cup julienne-cut zucchini or asparagus
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup refrigerated cooked edamame or frozen sweet peas, thawed
1 (10 oz.) container of light Alfredo sauce
1. Bring water and salt to a boil in a medium, heavy saucepan; gradually whisk in grits. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 20 to 25 minutes or until thick, stirring often. Remove from heat and add cheese and basil, stirring until the cheese melts. Cover and keep warm.
2. While grits are cooking, heat oil in a large skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add garlic, saute 1 minute. Add carrots, bell pepper and zucchini or asparagus; saute 3 minutes. Add mushrooms, tomatoes and edamame; saute 4 to 5 minutes. Remove vegetables from skillet.
Add Alfredo sauce to skillet and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thoroughly heated (about 5 minutes). Return veggies to the skillet and cook just until heated through. Serve vegetable mixture over hot cooked grits.
Makes one pie
1 cup water
1/4 cup uncooked stone-ground yellow grits
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. butter
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup corn syrup
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups broken pecan halves, divided
Single-crust pie crust
1. Combine water and grits in a small saucepan; stir and let stand 1 minute. Carefully remove husks floating on top of water using a small strainer. Add salt to grits; place over high heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes or until thick, stirring often. (When cooking such a small amount of grits, cover the pan to avoid losing too much liquid as steam during cooking.) Cover and set aside.
2. Melt butter in a small saucepan; add sugar and corn syrup and cook over medium-low heat about 10 minutes or until sugar dissolves, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Whisk cooked grits into butter mixture; cool slightly. Whisk eggs and vanilla into butter mixture until blended.
3. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place 1 cup broken pecan halves in bottom of unbaked pie crust. Pour grits mixture over pecans in pie crust. Sprinkle with additional 1/2 cup pecans and stir pecans very gently to coat with syrup and distribute evenly. Bake at 325 for 45 minutes or until set (shield edges of crust with aluminum foil after about 30 minutes to prevent excessive browning, if needed).
Source: “Glorious Grits” by Susan McEwen McIntosh, Southern Living.