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Should I go for grits, or polenta?

I'm cooking a birthday dinner this weekend, and I can't decide on grits or polenta!

I'm doing Suzanne Goin's port-braised short ribs. Normally, I'd do this on a bed of mashed potatoes or cauliflower puree, but the other choice for dinner was something from Frank Stitt's Southern Table so now I have grits on the brain.

So I'm going out to buy the good stone ground stuff, but now I'm wondering--grits or polenta? Which texture do you think would complement the hearty ribs best? Menu so far is:

steamed mussels (they seem especially good, and everyone loves them)
braised ribs on a bed of creamy polenta/grits
steamed baby vegetables
Axalady's Mom Mom's Red Velvet (I can't wait! Thanks again for the recipe)

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  1. I just made virtually the same meal about a week ago. I used yello grits and used the braising liquid supplemented with beef stock as the liquid adding rosemary and scallions near the very end - it was yummy

    1 Reply
    1. re: swarttav

      I would go with the grits, either white or yellow.

    2. could someone explain the difference to me? I wasn't aware that there was one!!

      9 Replies
      1. re: eLizard

        polenta is drier and firmer, grits are nice and mushy. My bias :). I much much prefer grits.

        1. re: DGresh

          i've had nice and mushy "polenta"..... and i could have sworn i saw alton brown do an episode where he said they were both the same thing. thanks for your explanation!

          1. re: eLizard

            maybe it's just that all the places I've had polenta it's been cooked so firm that you can cut it into squares, which I *really* don't like-- too dry

            1. re: DGresh

              Lots of restaurants make polenta, then chill it in a pan, cut it in squares or triangles and saute or grill. I think they do it mainly so they can have a fancy presentation and add a little more fat. The other day my polenta came out crappy (icky texture and weird taste...no idea what I did wrong) so I used the above method. It covered up my sins to a fair degree. So now I think I know another reason restuarants do that.

            2. re: eLizard

              Alton did indeed say they are the same thing - coarse ground cornmeal. Here's the link to that episode's recipes:

              http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/show_...

            3. re: DGresh

              I prefer grits too, but I think for this application polenta is the way to go. The texture will be smoother and more like mashed potatos. Grits have a much more defined grain and I'm not so sure I would like having grit particles sticking to my short ribs.

              I would cook the polenta loose, so it is NOT dry and firm.

            4. re: eLizard

              i think polenta is from corn and grits is from hominy. which isn't quite the same as corn. but from where i've derived this knowledge i'm not sure so, don't quote me on it's accuracy!

              1. re: epiffani

                You are correct. Grits, at least real grits, are hominy. I would go with the grits, more rustic.

                1. re: phneale

                  At one time I though that was the distinction, but, apparently a lot of what is sold and eaten as grits is not made from hominy, but untreated corn. In other words, check your source. Alber's brand gives no indication of being made from hominy (White Degermed Ground Corn), where as Quaker says 'white hominy grits made from corn'. But even with Quaker it is unclear whether the corn has been treated with slaked lime (Mexican 'nixtamaldado').

                  paulj

            5. I personally prefer the texture of polenta, but that's just me. Grits would be more southern, however.

              1 Reply
              1. re: laurendlewis

                Well, grits are from hominy - which is the dried kernel of corn, after the hull and bran are soaked away and the kernels puff up....polenta is usually made from corn meal. Similar, in the sense it's all, in the end, a ground corn. Because polenta has a higher bran content, it has a more pronounced "corn" taste. Grits are usually made from white corn, and polenta's usually yellow. And depending upon how long it's cooked, with what liquids...well, you could get a loaf of either, and slice it up. In the North, it was simply called "fried mush."

              2. I have had better luck with grits--the ones my mother-in-law calls "popcorn" grits (they're considerably coarser than usual) are expecially delicious.

                2 Replies
                  1. re: mamaciita

                    thanks mamaciita for the link for coarser grits. i like them too!

                1. I prefer grits-for a softer and creamier side dish.I make polenta and then grill it for a heartier food accompaniement