Not every great recipe requires seven steps and several stopwatches. Cheese grits are one such example.
Grits are crushed kernels of dried corn. The dried kernels are crushed between millstones and the resulting fragments are sorted according to density. The dense shards are grits, and the lighter shards are cornmeal. Polenta is an even finer grind of yellow corn, with all the particles of flour later removed. These stone-ground grits can be made from either white corn or yellow corn, with little difference in taste between the respective varieties.
Stone-grounds grits are coarser than the grits you will find in your supermarket, and therefore take longer to cook – anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes. Quick grits – which we’re more accustomed to – have been ground much finer, and will take roughly 5 minutes to cook. Unfortunately, the convenience comes with a sacrifice. Quick grits, unlike stone-ground grits, have been degerminated (to preserve their shelf life). Without the germ in the kernels, quick grits lack some of the texture and flavor of the stone-ground kind.
Instant grits, meanwhile, have tipped the convenience-flavor balance too far, and represent all convenience and no flavor. Instant grits are washed, partly cooked, and then dried – a process that leaves them devoid of any taste or texture. Avoid them.
In St. Louis, I have not been able to find stone-ground grits. After I get through my supply of quick grits, I think I’m going to order myself some old-fashioned grits straight from the source – or sources.
WHAT TO GRAB:
4 cups of water
1 cup of old-fashioned or quick grits
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup finely shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1/4 cup of chopped green onions, plus extra for garnish
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cloves of garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
HOW YOU DO IT:
1. In a saucepan, bring 4 cups of water and 1/2 teaspoon of salt to a boil. Stir in the grits. When it reaches a boil again, reduce the heat, and simmer for the required time (5 minutes or 15 to 30 minutes), stirring frequently until the grits are thick and creamy.
2. Remove the saucepan from the heat, and add the butter and cheese, stirring until the cheese is melted and incorporated. (If you have to put the saucepan back on the burner for this step, its okay).
3. Add the green onions, cayenne pepper, garlic, salt, and pepper.
4. When the mixture is lukewarm, remove the garlic, and serve!
NOT SO GOOD VARIATIONS:
A lot of recipes call for baked cheese grits and even a cheese grits soufflé. In my experience, the grits get dry and overcooked when they’re baked. Sometimes you shouldn’t argue with what works best.