Grits have a less than stellar reputation in some circles. The limpid white grits old-style Southern diners used to serve are probably the culprit. But my, how times change! It would be a pity to miss out on freshly ground yellow grits, especially if you can score Original Grit Girl Grits that are milled right here in Mississippi. You can find them at the Ocean Springs Fresh Market on Saturday morning, and if you have never tried them before, man or man, are you in for a surprise.
Grits are nothing more than ground corn, just like Italian polenta, and the Italians do some pretty amazing things with that simple whole grain. Google polenta recipes and you will find wonderful combinations like mushrooms, chickpeas and olives and balsamic onions, roasted peppers, and feta. If you want to go for a Southern theme, make the grits as described below, then top with collard greens simmered until tender in a salty ham stock.
What’s the difference between grits and polenta? Master miller Georgeannn Ross (one of the only female master millers in the USA), was the owner of the Original Grits Girl Grits for many years, says the only difference is in the coarseness of the grid. So, if you like polenta, grits should be on your list as well.
Give grits a second thought and if you have not been a fan in the past, I think you will change your mind.
Basic Grits Recipe:
2 cups chicken broth
½ cup whipping cream
1 cup Original Grit Girl Grits
Heat stock until it is simmering, add the grits, stir well, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes, or until tender.
Sausage and Cheese Grits:
This is a recipe my mother used to make on cold mornings in north Mississippi.
1 cup freshly ground grits
2 cups chicken stock
¼ cup cream
Butter as needed
2/3 cup Jimmy Dean breakfast sausage
½ cup grated cheddar cheese
Combine the grits and stock in a saucepan and simmer slowly until almost tender. Add additional (hot) stock as needed. Sauté the sausage until well browned, remove and drain. Just before the grits are done, approximately 20 minutes, add the cream, as much butter as you like, the cheese, and sausage. Combine well, and simmer just until the cheese is melted. Serve in coffee cups with a spoon, or you can pour the mixture into ramekins, allow to cool and then pop out of the mold. Top with an over-easy egg if you like.
Grit Cakes and Red Sauce:
1 large can whole, imported tomatoes
1 chopped red onion
1 chopped bell pepper
2-4 cloves chopped garlic
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, red pepper flakes
1 cup dry red wine
Oregano (if you use fresh, add at the very end of cooking)
Best quality olive oil
Optional Italian sausage, ground beef, or pork
Sauté the onion and bell pepper in olive oil for 10 minutes, remembering to season as you go. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes longer. Add the wine and reduce by half. Add the tomatoes (If you are using the meat, sauté until well done, and add now), and simmer for 20 minutes. Taste and season as needed. Using the recipe above, make the grits (add Italian cheese if you like), pour into ramekins and when cool, remove. Plate grit cake and top with sauce.
Shrimp and Grits:
1-pound large, peeled shrimp
2/3 cup fine chopped onion
1 chopped bell pepper
2-3 cloves diced garlic
1 large heirloom tomato, diced
Black pepper, red pepper flakes, Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning
Optional butter, green onions
Use the recipe above to make the grits, pour into ramekins and when cook, remove and set aside. Season the shrimp aggressively with Tony’s. Heat a sauté pan with olive oil till near (but not quite) smoking hot. Add the shrimp in batches and cook for 2 minutes, tossing often. Remove and set aside. In the same pan, add the onion and bell pepper, use more oil if needed, season again and cook for 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add the diced fresh tomato and cook for 5 minutes more. Add the shrimp and toss well. Add the butter now if you are going to use it. Plate the grits and top with the shrimp. Garnish with green onions if desired.