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.)
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