Classic Southern Sunday Morning Cheese Grits
Sunday morning.... A warm snuggly nice-warm-bed kind of Sunday morning. Lots of time to think about breakfast. Hot or cold? Hot! Hot is nice. Waffles? Maybe. Pancakes? Nah, waffles are better than pancakes. Think of something different. What about... Enchiladas ranchero. Nah. Not long enough since last time. Poached eggs? Nice idea... Béarnaise sauce? Can't afford the grams of fat! hmmmmm.... What about....???? What about grits? GRITS! What in the world made you think of grits? Oh, I don't know. Lots of people like them. You read about 'em all over the place. hmmm... How do you make them?
The bedside computer says they're easy. Four parts liquid to one part grits. The liquid can be all water or water and milk. Someone says half water, quarter half and half, quarter whipping cream. Fat grams! Whatever the final mixture, boil them for anywhere from six minutes for five minute grits to up to a half hour for fifteen minute grits. Stir frequently. Avoid lumps. Cheddar cheese is a highly recommended addition. And don't forget the salt and freshly ground black pepper. Some recommend sea scallops with grits. Sounds interesting but the cupboard is bare. Others say shrimp. Got plenty, but I think I like my shrimp with cocktail sauce, thank you.
Okay. Time for grits. Off to the kitchen. Saucepan. Two cups of water. One cup milk. One cup half and half. Salt. Boil. Add one cup grits. Stir. Reduce heat. Giant boiling blobs popping all over the place. Reduce heat some more. Stir. Stir. Stir. Nice. Add butter. Stir. Stir. Add cheddar. Stir. Spoon into soup plate. Dot with fresh butter. Sprinkle with pink Himalayan sea salt. Spatter with freshly ground tellicherry black pepper. Top with bacon flakes and one glorious fried egg with bright orange yolk.
Breakfast! Is it good? Well, it's okay. If you like grits. Do you like grits? Well, I dunno. I've never had 'em before, and I haven't decided yet. That doesn't matter! Do you like them? Well, if you must know, I don't think I'm crazy about them. This is ridiculous! What don't you like? Well, I don't like that they're not more exciting. Exciting? What do you want? Bells and whistles? Not necessarily, but... more flavor would be nice. Oh come on, these are exactly the kind of grits that people write about all of the time. Other people like them! What's wrong with you? hmmm... I don't think anything is wrong with me. I just don't have childhood memories of big heaping plates of steaming grits when Aunt Martha and Uncle Charlie came from Charleston, and brought me a puppy. I have no memories of glad creamy grits on a drab cloudy day. Stuff like that can make anything taste a lot better, you know? Okay, then answer me this: Will you ever make grits for breakfast again? ... ... I don't know. I just don't know. I guess I'm going to take the next seventy nine years to think about it. I'll let you know... Meanwhile I think I'll go melt some Gummy Bears...
Caroline, you just won the 'Funniest Sunday Morning Ramble Award'. Thanks! DH was howling as I was reading it to him.
I know just how you feel about the grits. I didn't grow up with them, either, but I like them enough to keep trying for the best flavor I can wring out of 'em. As we travel around the South, I find stone ground grits in different areas, and pick up a bag now and then. The best I've cooked so far have been some really coarse ones from Charleston. They take almost an hour to cook. You've got the rest of it perfect ...lots of butter, salt, cheese. And egg and bacon. I don't put any milk or cream in mine, I just cook the grits in water, low and slow.
Yesterday, I got a bag of grits from one of our local farmers at the AG Center bazaar. It looks like chicken feed, it's so coarse and rustic looking. She told me about growing the corn, and that this year was her first successful year with this heirloom dent corn, so I'm interested to see if it has more flavor than the commercial stuff.
Shrimp and grits may be tonight's dinner...I already had taken a bag of my Charleston shrimpboat shrimps out of the freezer and hadn't decided what dinner would be. Thanks for the inspiration!
Update on the shrimp and grits. I used Hominy Grill's recipe for the shrimp, which was delicious, and used the rustic grits I got at the local market with bacon fat and cheddar in them. The darn grits took over an hour to cook, but they had a lot of flavor and a nice chewy texture.
The milk and cream actually makes the dish less interesting to me, and coming from a Cream Freak that's a huge admission. The most butterfat in mine are the glob of butter I put into the cooking water, along with S&P, a dash or three of Tabasco and a squoze clove of garlic per cup of water. My cheese today was bland, because Fontina was all I had, but sharp-as-it-gets cheddar is the top choice here. I use the same stone-ground corn grits I use for polenta, and while it's not up to the best I've had it was a stone (ground) bargain and I've got ten pounds to use up!
What I usually do for breakfast is in two steps: cook the grits and stir in the cheese, then put it into a baking pot or pots and finish it in an oven that will let you top-brown at the end. When the dish is getting a crust with some color and bubbling it's ready to put onto the hot tray for serving.