Grits aren’t just for breakfast

Published 2:49 pm Wednesday, May 20, 2009

By Staff
One of the most misunderstood and underused items in a southern pantry is grits. Although grits are a staple in just about any Alabama kitchen, they are not considered much beyond the breakfast table or as a side with shrimp or fish.
After having been served what appeared to be grits soup recently, I got to thinking about just what can be done to the lowly dish to make it more versatile and more appealing for meals other than breakfast or the occasional fish fry.
In my quest to find recipes using grits as the main ingredient, I have come upon some ideas that are certainly worth sharing with Southern cooks around here. If you like grits with butter, salt and pepper, there is a chance that some of these dishes will sound like blasphemy against the grits to you. However, if you’ve ever experienced delectable smoothness of grits prepared with Gruyere cheese, some of these recipes may sound very interesting.
To start things off, it may be a good idea to provide a cooking method that works well with grits for those who haven’t had much experience with preparing them.
There are old-fashioned grits, quick cooking grits and even instant grits on the shelves at the local supermarket. They all taste pretty much the same, however the texture of each variety will be different. I usually prefer the quick cooking grits that only take about 10 minutes total to cook on top of the stove or about six minutes in the microwave. They taste great and they are more “gritty” than the instant grits variety.
If you want to give the old fashioned variety of try, the following method should be perfect for preparation.
Old Fashioned Grits
In a 3- to 4-quart saucepan, bring 4 1/2 cups of water seasoned with 1 teaspoon of salt to a boil. Slowly stir in 1 cup of regular grits. Continue stirring and reduce heat to low. Cook for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent scorching. Stir in four tablespoons butter and salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.
Most cooks serve up grits at breakfast or along with fish or shrimp, but there are so many other times that grits could make an appearance at the table. I found a recipe for fried grits that sounds pretty good. I’m thinking this particular dish would be great with pork chops and some kind of greens.
Fried Grits
1 cup uncooked grits prepared according to package directions.
To make fried grits, let them cool slightly then beat in one egg. Pour into a buttered loaf pan, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. When chilled and firm, cut grits into half-inch slices. Fry in bacon fat or butter until golden brown on each side.
This next recipe would be a great side dish beside a big platter of chicken wings. With the blue cheese in the grits, it’s a perfect combination.
Cheesy Blue Grits
2 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
2 cups milk
1 cup quick-cooking grits
1/2 cup crumbled mild blue cheese
1 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
Combine the chicken broth and milk in a saucepan, and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Gradually stir in the grits. Cover the pan and simmer over low heat for about 5 minutes, until the grits are thickened and tender. Remove the grits from the heat, and stir in the blue cheese, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Mix well to combine, and serve hot.
Finally, here’s a recipe that might be a little something different for the grits lovers in the family. If your crew likes things a little spicy, this recipe will be a heat. These grits would be a great side dish at the next barbecue.
Chipotle Grits
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups milk
1 cup quick-cooking grits
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon ground cumin
4 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced
1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chilies
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese, divided
Preheat an oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 9×13 inch baking dish. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the onion, and cook until the onion softens and turns translucent, about 5 minutes. Pour in the chicken broth and milk. Bring to a boil over high heat, then turn the heat to low. Slowly whisk in the grits, then cover the saucepan, and cook for 5 minutes. Once the grits have cooked, stir in the salt, pepper, cumin, chipotle peppers, green chiles, and 1 cup of Cheddar cheese until the cheese has melted. Pour the grits into the prepared 9×13 inch dish, and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of Cheddar cheese. Bake in the preheated oven until the cheese is bubbly, and has begun to brown, 30-45 minutes.
I hope you will consider trying to incorporate grits into your meals at other times than breakfast or the fish fry. The savory dish has been around for many, many years and will continue to be a staple in southern homes for generations to come.

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