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Cooking with Grits

May
4

I had, hands down, the best grits I’ve ever tasted recently in South Carolina at a restaurant called Charleston Crab House.


Fried oysters at Charleston Crab House–with awesome grits on the side.

This photo doesn’t do these grits justice. These are the grits of the gods.

And so, before leaving the restaurant, I tackled the waiter, pinned him down, and demanded the recipe–or his life! He was so scared, he immediately spilled the secret then started crying for his mommy. Then I let him up and gave him a good tip.

While I was in Charleston, by the way, I picked up a small cookbook called Gone with the Grits by Diane Pfeifer. I haven’t tried any of the recipes in the book yet, though I’m sure I will. The reason I picked up the book was because I was fascinated with the concept and wanted to study it. Every recipe in the cookbook includes grits. Grits in everything from dips and dressings to main dishes and desserts. Grits cornbread. Grits pumpkin pie. Grits enchiladas. Grits hummus. Grits macaroni and cheese. Grits burgers. On and on. I was FASCINATED.

I know. I’m weird.

Anyway. Why all the grits? As the author explains, grits are non-fat (if made simply with water) and can add a non-fat creaminess, texture, and “chewy volume” to all sorts of recipes. They can act as a meat extender and even a meat substitute. And grits are economical.

Wow. I can hardly wait to bake some pies and cookies with grits. Preferring to incorporate grits into some of my own recipes, I bought the book to analyze the concept–how it works, what amounts work best in different types of recipes, etc. I started out by adding 1 cup of grits to a pound of ground turkey the other night when I made turkey burgers. I used my usual recipe, but instead of using bread crumbs, I used grits. It came out great and adds a more meat-like texture to the burgers than bread crumbs do. I’m looking forward to trying it mixed with mashed beans in some vegan recipes, but haven’t done that yet. Yesterday, I made Grandmother Bread with grits. The grits add a wonderful, chewy texture to the bread. I love it!

Back to plain old grits. If you’re making grits to use in a recipe, it’s just fine to use the quickie 5-minute grits. But if you’re making grits to serve as a side dish, use stone-ground grits. Those are the real old-fashioned grits. They don’t cook in 5 minutes and you can taste the difference. (Note: Remember that stone-ground grits, like stone-ground cornmeal, should be kept refrigerated or frozen, not on the pantry shelf.)

When cooking stone-ground grits, you need to wash the grits first to release any remaining chaff. Don’t be put off by this procedure. It’s very simple. Just measure out your grits.

Cover with cold water.

Skim the chaff with a big spoon.

The meal will sink to the bottom while the chaff will rise. Don’t get too fretful over getting every last bit. Just get most of it and that’ll be fine. When you’re done skimming, pour the rest of the water out of the bowl through a sieve (to make sure you don’t lose any grits).

Go ahead and scoop the grits off the bottom of the bowl and into the sieve to finish draining.

Now you’re ready to cook grits!

This is how they make ’em at Charleston Crab House. THEY ARE TO DIE FOR. Their method relies on two key points to end in their delicious result. 1) They use half water, half cream, instead of all water when cooking the grits (stone-ground, of course), and 2) they cook their grits nearly twice as long as your average stone-ground grits recipe indicates. They are delicious, tender, and creamy–a side dish that would honor the finest holiday meal–not just breakfast! (They make their recipe in much larger quantities, of course. I’ve reduced this down to a standard family-size recipe.)

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How to make Charleston Crab House Grits:

1 cup stone-ground grits
2 cups boiling water
2 cups heavy cream
salt and butter to taste

Wash and drain the stone-ground grits, skimming the chaff. Bring two cups of water and two cups of heavy cream to a boil. Add the salt. (I use about a teaspoon. Adjust this to taste.) Add the grits, stirring well with a whisk.

Turn the heat to simmer (lowest you can go on your stovetop) and cover the pot. Let simmer for 1 hour and 10 minutes (at least) or until thick and creamy.

When finished cooking, stir in a couple tablespoons (more or less, to taste) butter or margarine, or add a little pat on top of each serving.

To make stone-ground grits the “regular” way, use 4 cups of water instead of part heavy cream and cook for 40-45 minutes on low.

There are lots of ways to dress up grits, of course. Add herbs or other seasonings, cheese, finely chopped sauteed vegetables, etc, but there is something quite beautiful, and even elegant, about a simple dish of creamy, delicious grits–cooked the old-fashioned way.

I don’t know why grits have such a bad rap. They are an excellent source of fiber and nutrition. They make a great alternative to mashed potatoes or rice as a side dish, not to mention all the other possibilities. They aren’t just for breakfast! And in case you’re not from around here and don’t really know what grits are– Grits are coarsely ground corn, and when cooked properly, they are similar in texture and appearance to risotto (creamy-cooked aborio rice) or polenta (basically, corn mush)–two dishes that have much better P.R. people, apparently.

I think grits are great. I’m gonna put ’em in a pie next. You?


See these recipes at Farm Bell Recipes for the handy print pages and to save them to your recipe box:
Charleston Crab House Grits
Grandmother Bread with Grits


See All My Recipes


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Posted by Suzanne McMinn on May 4, 2011  

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  1. 5-4
    3:04
    am

    Help a poor Canadian … what the heck are grits? Is this a corn product, or some other special ‘grit’ plant?

  2. 5-4
    5:43
    am

    :sun: Wow those grits look heavenly.
    Granny Trace

    http://www.grannytracescrapsandsquares.com

  3. 5-4
    5:59
    am

    Hunh. How interesting! Maybe I could handle eating grits this way…I just haven’t been able to like grits. I’ve tried and tried and tried. I’ll try again. I just figure I’ve been fixing them wrong, toooo many people love grits for me not to like them. But I WILL be using them IN things, though. That’s a great concept!

  4. 5-4
    6:03
    am

    I can’t wait to hear about grits in a pie! We love grits, but usually only for breakfast, or occasionaly garlic/cheese grits as a side dish with dinner. I agree about the stone ground grits being better, but I have to admit, I even like instant grits if they’re dressed up with cheese and black pepper.

  5. 5-4
    6:52
    am

    Yum!! I LOVE grits, but then I started life in Oklahoma with a mother who hailed from Missouri. Grits have always been on the menu. And grits with cream – oh my my!! Great idea to include them in other things too. “Grits are high in folate, with one cup providing 20% of the recommended allowance. They are also a good source of iron, niacin, riboflavin, selenium, thiamin and vitamin A.”

    Read more: Grits Nutritional Value | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/facts_5272476_grits-nutritional-value.html#ixzz1LNbvQzNy

  6. 5-4
    6:55
    am

    Grits are coarsely ground corn. Think cornmeal, but rougher.

  7. 5-4
    7:04
    am

    Yum!

    When you added grits to the turkey burgers, did you use raw grits or cooked ones? And if they were cooked, were they cooked in water or water and cream?

  8. 5-4
    7:06
    am

    I love grits too! Same here, Judydee on the instant grits – I’m the only one in my house who likes them, so instant all dressed up is my fix now and then. Curious to see them ‘in’ other things, Suzanne. Now I’m hungry for GRITS LOL.

    Dede

  9. 5-4
    7:12
    am

    Julia–cooked!!!! I used cooked grits in the turkey burger. Just plain, cooked in water.

  10. 5-4
    7:41
    am

    Anybody got a source for good stone ground grits in bulk? In Indiana, we get the quick kind, but it’s hard to find the good kind.

  11. 5-4
    8:02
    am

    I love grits! Here in South Carolina, we don’t wash the grits or skim the chaff. It’s just fiber and it’s good for you. I love those brown flecks in my grits – means they are wholesome and truly stone-ground. Besides, it’s much easier :lol:

    Tina

  12. 5-4
    8:34
    am

    hmmm… grits have always been something suspicious to me. Yes, Yankee here! Plus I’m Polish by heritage, we eat potatoes! We’ve barely (as a group) accepted that rice may be useful and now you’re asking me to try grits? Well, OK, but part of my suspicion is that I’ve probably only ever had really horrible instant grits. (think military chow hall!) They seem to actually have a negative taste! I’ll see if I can find some real ones and try them, and if they are still yucky, (to my taste buds) I’ll just use them to stretch hamburger or turkey etc.

    You keep stretching my experiences Suzanne!

  13. 5-4
    8:44
    am

    Coming from Georgia, Grits are and were a staple in our house. Now I married a Yankee and I can cook them for myself but over the years have stopped because no one would eat them other than me! Just wait until you try them with cheese! Or after breakfast use the leftover ones and fry them like a patty! Oh My you have entered in a world that you are going to enjoy!! I actually was at Momma over the weekend and stole a few cups so I could have some at my house! My favorite growing up was cheese grits with a bunch of butter salt and pepper. I too have never washed off the chaff. It was just never something that we ever thought about, yes you will get the occasional harder part but that was always just how grits were to me.

  14. 5-4
    8:46
    am

    Well I’m happy to finally find out what grits are! I thought they were like Cream of Wheat cereal, that’s what they look like in the pictures. I’ve never had the opportunity to try them, maybe I will now…(or not) :)

  15. 5-4
    8:49
    am

    Me again… I just had a thought, do they call them “grits” because they are gritty in your teeth? :?

  16. 5-4
    9:01
    am

    I would not say they are gritty, but then I was eating them before I had teeth! They have a different texture then say cream of wheat (that is mush to me!) Its really one of those things that you kind of have to try to understand. Just make sure that you don’t eat them just plain the first time, they have almost no flavor, in my opinion. Add lots of butter and some salt and pepper, funny that is considered plain to some here!

  17. 5-4
    9:19
    am

    I hope someone has a good recipe for jalapeno-cheddar grits.

    The Fort Restaurant here has it on the menu sometimes, but it would be a good thing to be able to make at home.

    Thanks for the post, Suzanne!

  18. 5-4
    9:19
    am

    Grits are not gritty! The name comes from the Italian Gruzzi which just means ground corn. Grits are the Southern version of Polenta!

    Tina

  19. 5-4
    10:04
    am

    We eat a lot of grits. LUV them!

  20. 5-4
    10:38
    am

    Oh, I HAVE to try these! I’m so in love with grits! I grew up in Michigan, but lived in Kentucky for several years and learned to adore Southern food. :) Cheese grits are my favorite, but now I want to try them in lots of different stuff, too! Please post about your successes (or failures) with adding them to other foods!

  21. 5-4
    11:29
    am

    I love grits with plenty of butter, sugar, and cream.

  22. 5-4
    12:07
    pm

    That bowl of grits looks so warm and comforting! Do they taste like cream of wheat/farina?? :hungry:

  23. 5-4
    12:14
    pm

    We had grits like this at a B & B in Natchez MS back in December. To die for with the cream. I have a favorite way to cook grits where I boil them as usual, then dump a half inch layer into a skillet with melted butter, and then fry them to a golden brown. I add more butter as they fry. Sooooo goooood. :hungry:

  24. 5-4
    12:15
    pm

    This Kansas girl also loves grits, but my favorite way is with butter, salt & pepper and a soft cooked egg mashed in. Ummm dreamin’ of those grits now.

  25. 5-4
    12:26
    pm

    okay ladies…a few weeks ago there was a discussion of good store-bought grits. here in the North we (can only) get Quaker…What where those good grits you gals liked? Dixie grits? any good online grits? I wanna try Suzanne’s recipes, but I need all the help I can get!

  26. 5-4
    12:27
    pm

    We love our grits, too! I use whole milk to make ours, then some grated cheese. Cheddar is good but horseradish cheese is so yummy!
    I have a recipe for a ham/egg/cheese breakfast dish that calls for some cooked grits. I guess it’s a thickener in the recipe….I just know it’s good! :snoopy:

  27. 5-4
    12:29
    pm

    bonita, I believe you are talking about the post from Syrup & Biscuits on Farm Bell Recipes? She talked about a brand that I believe was Dixie Lily. I believe those were the 5-minute grits, though, not the stone-ground.

  28. 5-4
    12:30
    pm

    oct4luv, I would compare grits more to risotto or polenta than cream of wheat.

  29. 5-4
    12:43
    pm

    I have an annual Christmas party. This year I served Shrimp and grits. They raved over it and especially the grits. Seems I had put cream, butter and cheese in it. The cream and butter make them so good. You have cow…and all the good stuff that comes with it. You should get rave reviews over your grits too! Woo hoo the sun is shining today.

  30. 5-4
    1:32
    pm

    This is the brand I use:

    But I don’t have to buy them online. They are available in grocery stores here.

    Tina

  31. 5-4
    1:34
    pm

    Oops! The link didn’t copy. Look up Charleston Favorite Grits on the site Foodforthesouthernsoul.com.

    Tina

  32. 5-4
    2:24
    pm

    Shrimp and Grits.

    Last year I finally gave this dish a try at a local Louisiana style restaurant. The thought of shrimp and grits just always turned me off so I never tried them

    Boy let me tell you, they are to “Die For”. They were wonderful!
    Up until then, I had only eaten grits with lots of butter.
    I have a new favorite dish: Shrimp and grits.

    I will need to try the “Charleston Crab House Grits” using the cream. Yummmmm.

  33. 5-4
    2:38
    pm

    I had cheese grits for the first time a couple months ago in Georgia, FELL IN LOVE!!!! Does anyone know if I can grind my own corn to make grits? I have a flour mill….so I’m hoping to be able to do this, since it costs an arm and a leg to ship a bag of grits up to Wisconsin!

    Suzanne, you’re the best! I absolutely love your blog, and the fact that you share everything with us readers makes me love you even more! And now grits!!! :snoopy:

  34. 5-4
    2:50
    pm

    Yes, you can grind your own grits with a flour mill. You have to use field corn, not sweet corn. Dry it on the stalk. Shuck it and winnow it. Grind it a little coarse, about 3 times, for grits and finer for cornmeal. My grandmother never bought grits. She made them!

    Tina

  35. 5-4
    5:37
    pm

    @meismeems: Buy whole dried hominy, and grind that. That’s grits. They should be fairly coarsely ground, not fine like cornmeal. They are usually made from white hominy, but you can certainly use yellow as well. Go for it!

    By the way, Bob’s Red Mill has good stoneground grits. Theirs is yellow. They call it: “Grits, Also Known As Polenta” which I think is a real hoot! You can find them here http://www.bobsredmill.com/corn-grits_polenta.html

  36. 5-4
    6:12
    pm

    I was just going to ask if grits are like hominy and then I saw AnnieB’s reply. So the flavor is like hominy? Don’t shoot me but I like Hominy right out of can, Del Monte brand, maybe. But honestly that was many years ago. What would be the correct or best way to serve hominy?

  37. 5-5
    12:00
    am

    Oh my… I will be dreaming about these grits (with cheese on mine) until I can get to the grocery store. I love ’em! When I lived in TX my friends down there used to tease me that WV wasn’t southern enough to appreciate good grits. LOL

  38. 5-5
    8:48
    am

    Y’all know what G.R.I.T.S. stands for don’t y’all… I’t Girls Raised In The South! It doesn’t get much better than Bacon, Eggs and Grits for breakfast. And the eggs must be fried over easy. My sister still stirs hers all together before she eats them. Sounds good! Makes my Honey Nut Cheerios sound very lacking.

  39. 5-5
    9:57
    am

    Yum, yum, grits. Was married to a North Florida cracker who taught me to love them. Especially the coveted coarse grits, available only from local mills near Jacksonville. My sweet cracker passed away 15 years ago. I still love grits, and am now married to a sweet wise-cracking Jersey boy, who beleives that grits are used in paving roads. Or fed to birds. So I splurge every once in a while and get me a bag of real grits. Time to hunt me a new bag, oh to have coarse grits! I never thought to use the leftover cooked grits in other ways (than fried the next day). I’ll be watching for your results, maybe the sweet wise-cracking Jersey boy will be eating grits afterall!
    Y’all be well,

    Billie

  40. 5-5
    11:38
    am

    Oh, Suzanne — you’ve got to try Smoked Gouda Grits. One of our favorite restaurants here is the Fish House and the grits is a signature dish for them. Cooked long and slow and then the smoked gouda. To die for.

  41. 5-5
    12:40
    pm

    I LOVE grits – I once took grits cooked overnight in a crock pot with cheese to a potluck and they disappeared almost instantly.

    On vacation to Fernandina Beach, FL recently we ate at a seafood restaurant, Brett’s, and they had a Anson Mills Grits with Fontina Cheese, Sun Dried Tomatoes, and shrimp. I could have eaten another bowl of these lovelies!

    Anson Mills sells retail
    http://www.ansonmills.com/products-page.htm

    I thought “grits” were dried and then ground hominy (treated corn). The treatment makes the nutrients in the corn easier to absorb.

  42. 5-12
    10:59
    am

    I am a true southerner, never lived anywhere else, grits are a staple in my house. My favorite way to eat grits is with butter and a chopped up tomato in them, and shrimp and grits, and cheese grits, and scrambled eggs in grits– see this list is neverending.

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