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looking for a creamy, cheesy grits recipe

I had the most amazing lunch today--Blackened Shrimp with Cajun Crème Sauce, served over
Pepper Jack Grits--at a place called The Pecan in Atlanta. Now I'm back home in Seattle and despairing of ever finding anything like it here, unless I make it myself. Does anybody have a recipe that might come close?

I'm mainly interested in the grits as a side dish--not so much the shrimp. These were spectacularly creamy and rich. I'd prefer a recipe using regular grits, not quick-cooking--most likely Bob's Red Mill will be the easiest to find here. The sauce wasn't all that spicy--wish I'd paid more attention to the flavors in it, but I was too busy swooning over the fabulousness of the whole dish.

Any thoughts?

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  1. I love the stone-ground grits from Early's Honey Stand. wwwearlysgifts.com

    I use the recipe provided, adding grated cheese near the end and using milk, not water.

    1. For legitimate cheese grits, I usually use a combination of chicken stock and water (you can use milk if you like but I do prefer clear liquids), and simmer for about three times as long as the recipe calls for. Then, stir in cream and cheese until the texture looks right. You might experiment with a combination of shrimp stock, water and milk.

      You can order grits online, and although I love stone-ground grits and have them in my cupboard, Quaker quick-cooking (NOT instant) grits are good, even-textured, easy to get ahold of, and found in many a Southern cook's pantry. Instant grits are a pasty abomination, but quick-cooking grits don't have to be. Again, ignore the time on the label and definitely keep 'em simmering for a good 20 minutes.

      Have you thought of calling them up? You never know -- the chef might just be tickled pink that a Yankee wants his or her grits recipe! :)

      1 Reply
      1. re: Uncle Bob

        I agree. I try to get stoneground grits, but Aunt Jimima (sp) makes old-time regular, long cooking grits that are very good. They're a little hard to find in our cook it fast world, so when I do find them, I buy 4 or 5 five-lb. bags and store them in the extra fridge. Also re creamy grits - some of the best I've had were actually baked. Go to myrecipes.com and foodnetwork.com to find many variations.

      2. No recipe that I can vouch for personally trying....but you might want to seek out a recipe that uses cream cheese, in addition to milk and aged cheese (e.g. pepper jack) for that extra creaminess. Like this one from the Pioneer Woman (though the tomatoes in the dish might not be approximating what you want....):

        http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/20...

        3 Replies
        1. re: 4Snisl

          I was just going to suggest cream cheese, more cheese, and butter. The benefit of grits made with cream cheese is that they seem to taste even more fabulous fried; I make a huge batch just to have leftovers to fry later.

          1. re: caseyjo

            Okay, gotta try that...you just make the cold grits into patties and fry them? Do you add anything more? Anything else I need to know?

            1. re: MsMaryMc

              That's pretty much it! One thing to do is pack the grits into a deep tupperware dish when you put the leftovers in the fridge. The grits set, and you can cut them into nice little squares.

        2. Bob's Red Mill grits (widely sold around Seattle) are a coarse grind yellow cornmeal, the same that you would use for polenta. Supposedly it will cook in 40 minutes, but I prefer 2 hours, ending up using a 5:1 liquid to corn ratio. I also use white quick grits (Quaker, Albers, Whitelilly), which also better with a longer cooking time - e.g. 30-40 minutes. If it gets too stiff during cooking just add more liquid.

          You could start off cooking it a flavored liquid, but in most cases it works just as well to add the flavors toward the end. Butter, cream, grated cheese will all add that creaminess.

          Creaminess is a function of long cooking, enough liquid, and rich additions.

          1. Thanks!! I knew that folks here would come through.

            I found a recipe in _The Complete Southern Cookbook_ and I'm going to tweak it with some of the suggestions here--substitute 1 cup rich chicken stock and 1 cup light cream for 2 cups half-and-half; and cook them more like 20-30 minutes instead of the recommended 5-7, adding more liquid if necessary. Knowing that there's a difference between quick-cooking grits (okay) and instant (not okay) helps, too--I think I'll try the quick-cooking kind after all (the ones I had for lunch were finer-grained than the Bob's Red Mill stoneground, and I loved that).

            I'll let y'all know how it turns out. Any other suggestions are still welcome!

            1. Just make sure you get hominy grits, as opposed to yellow corn meal. The process of nixtalization changes the flavor, protein content, and color of the hominy corn. Quaker brand grits are fine, just don't mess with instant grits.

              There will be a notable difference in the flavor, color, and texture of the two products.

              Also grits take time to cook all of the way, so start them before everything else, and be patient.

              My grandmother used to empty a 12 oz. container of pimento cheese spread into the cheese grits as they finished cooking.

              2 Replies
              1. re: deet13

                It is not always clear whether the corn used for grits has been treated or not. The white quick grits like Quaker does say 'hominy grits'. But the yellow grits that Red Mills labels as 'grits/polenta' is just corn ground to the grit size. It appears that most of the 'grits' that Anson Mills sells also just that. It may even be ground from the type of corn that historically was used for hominy, but without the treatment. I have a bag of WhiteLily quick grits that say nothing about hominy, just 'white corn grits'.

                If our diet consisted largely of corn, then this treatment would be important, since is frees up niacin in the corn and balances the protein mix. But with our varied diet that does not matter much.

                Some sources talk about how pioneers treated their corn with lye (from ashes) and ground it themselves, but then go on to extol stone ground corn over quick grits. 'stone ground' is not the same as nixtamalization.

                There's been lots of debate as to just what is the difference between hominy grits and polenta. If they were cooked to the same consistency, seasoned the same, and I couldn't see the color, I'm not sure I could tell the difference - but I haven't tried such a blind test.

                1. re: deet13

                  Sounds good, Deets, and will give them a try.

                2. Although the recipe for making grits always says to add the grits slowly to boiling water, I've found I get a creamier texture when I add the grits to cold water and then heat. Anyone try this?

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: scubadoo97

                    Yes! Been doing it that way for years - so much better.

                    1. re: scubadoo97

                      Yes. This is true for all cereals . I learned this initially with cream of rice, to which I was addicted as a child. It makes a huge difference. i'm sure someone knows the science, I just know the result.

                    2. This thread gave me good ideas:

                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/4802...

                      As suggested in the thread, I used boursin cheese last week when I wanted rich, creamy grits. Boy, they were terrific.

                      1. The way to get creamy grits is to cook them for a long time. The longer you cook them, the creamier they will be.

                        1. I just add lots of shredded cheddar and ground black pepper to stone ground grits. It needs to be salty, too, so taste and add some if it tastes a little bland.
                          An Atlanta-born fellow I used to date made his morning grits, crumbled up his bacon and threw that in, added his scrambled eggs, and a handful of whatever shredded cheese he had around. Now, that was a breakfast!

                          1. I keep my grits in the freezer not the pantry. I find they stay fresher.
                            Also salt in the beginning or you will never get the salt right.

                            7 Replies
                            1. re: LaLa

                              Joined Chwhd specifically so I could reply to this. Grew up in Louisiana and live in Atlanta, and though I see some southern answers, I just gotta throw in my 2 cents. Grits are NEVER made from plain dried corn, that's cornmeal (which comes in yellow and white varieties). Grits are always made from dried hominy, and though lots of people like creamy grits, you'll find others who swear that grits should be "fluffy." I like both. Fluffy with lots of butter and black pepper and fried eggs for breakfast, and creamy if you're making them for a dinner dish. If you use a little real parmesan in your grits you'll get a more complex cheese flavor, even if you opt for cream cheese or whatever. If you like a deeper cheddar flavor use extra sharp cheddar in addition. Here's my bottom line: Cheese grits cannot be considered a healthy dish, though you can argue the more protein line. So if I have them, it's an occasional thing, and I'm gonna go whole-hog as we say. I'm gonna use lots of cheeses and half-n-half (don't like the cream cheese angle--too sour). I do sometimes use soy grits, but they require a long pre-soak. Real grits, never instant, are like potatoes to us in the south. Baked potatoes are good topped with all the same things that make grits wonderful for dinner. Ditto for breakfast potatoes and breakfast grits. Have fun, y'all.

                              1. re: sancan

                                Do you use a nationally available brand for your real grits, or some local specialty?

                                1. re: paulj

                                  If I can find stone ground grits I buy them, but that rarely happens. Quaker grits are what my mother cooked, and I still use them when I'm out of the stone ground ones. Any time you are visiting the Smokies you'll find the stone ground variety, and I'll bet you'd find them in many other "general store" type situations. I do see them on line occasionally, too. Because I make them so seldom, I keep my stone ground grits in the frig, but watch out because most come in cloth bags, and absorb odors from other foods. Leave them in the cloth bag, and put the whole thing in a plastic bag to protect it. Again, Quaker grits are fine if you can find them, especially if you're making creamy cheese grits, where the cheese is the thing. If I ate grits as often as I'd like, with butter and cheese and cream and bacon, etc., I'd be in high cholesterol country. They are something I grew up on, but find I can't eat so often now. The good news is that my grits last a long time in the frig!

                                2. re: sancan

                                  While this Anson mills description talks about hominy grits, it does not sound as though they are made from corn that has been soaked in slaked lime. Or am I missing something?

                                  http://www.thenibble.com/reviews/Main...

                                  1. re: paulj

                                    I tried to reply last night, but woke this morning and it's still "sending." Sorry if this shows as a double post. Hominy is by definition, corn soaked in slaked lime - or lye from wood ashes in the old days, I heard. This is an ancient technique, like husking wheat before using it, so I think they're just simplifying it by leaving out the details. If it says "Hominy grits" it's made from hominy, but their wording may just say corn.

                                    1. re: sancan

                                      I know what hominy is, and have assumed that hominy grits are made from hominy. However I'm finding references in historical and professional sources that hominy grits can refer to corn that has been ground/cut to a certain size, without this treatment.

                                      In some sources it sounds as though the only (modern) ground corn that comes from treated corn is masa (used for tortillas). That is ground while the corn is still wet, producing a dough that does not need added water (I don't know if the masa harina is dried before or after grinding.)

                                      I'm still trying to find a source that plainly talks about soaking the corn, and then cracking it into grits.

                                      I don't if this is significant or not, but Quaker hominy grits have added niacin, even though nixtamalization makes the niacin in the corn available.

                                      1. re: paulj

                                        I don't have a source for you, but my understanding is that the hominy is dried before being cracked. What fun to find people interested in the history of cooking, too. You may be right about the modern methods being different. I was amazed not long ago to find that some olive makers are using unripened olives to make "black" olives (and I wondered why they tasted so awful). I'd wager you're onto something about modern grits production.

                              2. Thanks again to everybody who has contributed to this thread--it's been fascinating, and very helpful!

                                For a first effort, my grits came out pretty good--and I believe they'll keep getting better. As is my usual mode, I went a little overboard--but I guess even I have my limit on rich ingredients. Next time I'll dial back a little on the cheese (the recipe said 1-1/2 cups, but I grated too much, so I went ahead and threw in 2+ cups--1-1/2 would have probably been about right) and the cream (the original recipe said use all half and half, I used half rich chicken stock and half light cream--but I think next time, stock plus half and half will probably be fine). I'll even cut back slightly on the cream cheese (the cookbook calls for 4 ounces). And while I'm usually a fan of lots of garlic, I didn't like it so much here, so I'll omit the single clove that the original recipe called for. But anyhow, here's my recipe, which began with one from _The Complete Southern Cookbook_ by Tammy Algood, but has been tweaked and adapted based on many of your suggestions.

                                Southern Hospitality Cheese Grits (With a Few Tweaks)

                                adapted from _The Complete Southern Cookbook_

                                2 cups chicken stock
                                2 cups half and half
                                1/2 tsp. salt
                                1/4 tsp. black pepper
                                1 cup quick-cook grits, uncooked
                                3 oz. cream cheese, cubed and softened
                                1-1/2 cups shredded pepper jack cheese
                                1/2 tsp. hot sauce

                                In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the stock, cream, salt, pepper, and garlic. Just as the mixture comes to a boil, gradually stir in the grits. Return to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to low. Simmer 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, adding more stock as needed.

                                Remove from heat and add cream cheese, pepper jack, and hot sauce, stirring until the cheeses melt. Serve immediately.