Thursday, June 17, 2010

Basic Cheese Grits

The first time I ever heard of grits was while watching the movie My Cousin Vinny, as Joe Pesci cross-examines a witness about his grits.

(start around 7:00 for the grits interrogation)

Then, the first time I ever actually ate grits was at a wedding in Virginia when I was about ten. I was hesitant to dive in to the cream-colored pile of mush, but an elderly Southern lady sitting next to me drawled, “Now honey, you can’t come down here and not try grits.” So I ate a nervous forkful and realized they weren’t that bad at all, and happily devoured the rest of them.

Now, fast-forward almost 15 years without grits, and I suddenly can’t get enough of this polenta-like dish, also made from coarsely ground corn. I’ve tried them at Mara’s Homemade (fine and creamy) and at Back Forty (coarse and chewy), and finally decided I needed to try making my own. This edition of Thursday’s Terra Treats offers only a basic recipe for grits because you can really add whatever you want. Shrimp is one of the more traditional choices, but I’ve had wonderful grits with roasted or grilled corn, artichoke hearts, ramps, or even German sausage!

At the end of the day, though, sometimes simplicity is best. And when it comes to grits, it’s pretty hard to beat the simple addition of cheese and a buttery biscuit to go with it.

Basic Cheese Grits

1 cup uncooked grits
2 tbsp butter
1/3 cup freshly grated aged Gouda cheese
Salt, fresh ground black pepper

  1. Cook grits according to package instructions, which typically involves a 1:4 grits-to-water ratio, a period of constant stirring, and a covered simmering until desired consistency is reached. Set aside and keep warm until any desired add-ins are ready to be included.
  2. If adding extra ingredients, add them to warm skillet along with any desired seasonings. While these add-ins are warming up, stir cheese and butter into grits, until melted all throughout. Any kind of cheese can be used, but I like to use a hard cheese with some bite to it, like the aged Gouda used here. If the cheese is salty, there’s no need to add extra salt, but if you want, you can add a little bit to taste while stirring in the butter and cheese.
  3. Spoon grits onto plates, and grind fresh pepper over top. Serve immediately, with warmed additional ingredients on top.

*Note: as we all know, no self-respecting Southerner uses instant grits – and neither should you, no matter what part of the country (or world) you’re from.

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