You know I’m from the South, right? I grew up on all manner of Southern fare. Ham, from Smithfield. Oysters and blue crabs, from the Chesapeake Bay. Pulled pork sandwiches made by Mom or as a treat from Pierce’s Barbecue. Pork puddin’ and scrapple (from the leftover parts of the pig). And grits.
Grits are ubiquitous in the south. They come standard with every breakfast in every diner. Like hash browns or whole wheat toast everywhere else.
Scott had never had real grits until he met me. He’s from Minnesota, after all. Land of 10,000 Lakes and Tater Tot Hot Dish. Not 10,000 grits.
Remember that movie, My Cousin, Vinny, where Joe Pesci and Marisa Tomei are sitting in the diner and he’s eating his first grit?
Aside from that being one of my all time favorite scenes, it’s also a fairly decent representation of Scott’s reaction the first time I served him grits.
Anyhoo, these grits are something special. Something to behold. They are the south’s version of risotto. Not thick and goopy. Not lumpy or bland.
Rich, creamy, unctuous. They pool across the plate like a flow of molten lava. Yes, there’s a little half and half. Yes, there’s cheese. Hey – we don’t eat this every day. But by God, I could!
Grits are not just for breakfast – although they’re fabulous with a fried egg sitting proudly atop! You can eat grits with virtually anything you would have potatoes or noodles with.
For instance, we actually had these garlic cheese grits with those braised lamb shanks I made a few weeks ago! Of course, shrimp and grits are a southern staple, but try them with smoked sausages or kielbasa and a bell pepper and onion saute! Divine!
I’m telling you, when you’re sick of potatoes, or rice or pasta – zig when the others zag. Make some grits and don’t forget the hot sauce!
Roasted Garlic Cheese Grits
Grits are a Southern staple. Cheese grits are even better.
- 1 cup white or yellow stone ground grits
- 4 cups low sodium chicken broth
- 1/2 cup half and half
- 5 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 cup fontina shredded
- 1 cup cheddar shredded
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper freshly ground
- 1 head garlic
- 5-6 dashes hot sauce or to taste
- green onions
- additional cheese
- hot sauce
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the head of garlic crosswise at the pointy end, trimming about 1/4-1/2 inch so that the interior of the cloves are exposed. Drizzle olive oil over the garlic and wrap it in aluminum foil. Bake for 40-50 minutes until soft. Let cool.
Rinse the grits with cool water, stirring to separate any loose chaff and hulls. Hold you hand on the edge of the bowl to drain the water and loose particles, but hold the grits in the bowl.
Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan bring chicken broth and thyme to a boil. Whisk in the grits and once the liquid returns to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and stir frequently 30-35 minutes, until thick and creamy. (Be sure to scrape the bottom of the pan as the grits cook, so they don't stick.
While the grits cook, peel apart the garlic. Holding a clove of garlic from the bottom, squeeze out the roasted garlic onto a cutting board. Repeat for each clove. Chop the cloves roughly, then use the side of the knife to smear the garlic into a paste. Add the paste to the grits and whisk in until thoroughly combined.
Add half and half, fontina, cheddar, salt, pepper and hot sauce. Stir until cheese is melted. At this point, you can hold the grits covered in a pot until you're ready to eat them (they will continue to thicken as they cool). Rewarm them to serve.
If you have leftovers, save them, they will reheat beautifully in the microwave with a pat of butter.
More Savory Southern Sides: