Growing up in the South, grits was dish I ate regularly–at home, at diners, late night at Waffle House. But when I moved up North for college, I got a lot of flack for my South Carolina roots, particularly my love of grits.
Of course now grits are the trendy item on bougie farm-to-table restaurants, and you can’t throw a rock without hitting someone’s shrimp and grits recipe. I’m here to tell you, though, that grits are a great way to build a meal from whatever you have in the fridge. No shrimp necessary.
There are a few tricks to grits that you will need to know upfront.
1.) You MUST salt your grits in the cooking process. You can add as much salt after they’re cooked as you want, but it won’t help the dish. A half teaspoon per 1/2 cup of grits is recommended, though if you’re using a salty stock, less is fine.
2.) Grits to liquid ratio is 1 to 4, so one cup of grits to 4 cups of liquid.
3.) For your liquid, I recommend using 1 part water, 1 part milk, and 2 parts broth.
4.) I like to throw a bay leaf in mine, but feel free to spice away however you like!
5.) Add your butter and or cheese just before the grits are finished cooking.
Add your liquid and grits, bring to a boil and then lower the temperature. Stir frequently to keep from clumping but also so they don’t spit hot liquid at you. (They will.) When the liquid is almost absorbed, add your butter or olive oil and any cheese you want. Stir until incorporated and eat immediately or they will set up.
Please note that these notes are for stone-ground grits rather than instant grits. I highly recommend going with these instead of the quick grits. They do take more time,but are also more flavorful and better textured. They cost roughly the same unless you want the higher end grits like Anson Mills or Geechie Boy, both of which I definitely recommend, but are not necessary. (On a personal note, it’s so strange to me that Anson Mills has become THE GO TO for fancy grits since it’s what I grew up with in SC.)
Now it’s time to think about toppings. Shrimp and grits is obviously classic, but here’s a list of things to consider instead:
- Blackened catfish
- Sauteed oyster mushrooms
- Stewed fresh tomatoes
- Roasted carrots with harissa
- Caramelized leeks
- Butter sauteed zucchini
- Barbecued pork belly
Grits are the base on which to build. Be creative. Consider different textures and flavor pairings. Also think about how to flavor the grits to best compliment the topping.
I spent last week reading Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking: A Cookbook by Toni Tipton-Martin, a tour-de-force work of archival research and culinary mastery. This James Beard award-winning collection works from nearly 200 years of African American food history to showcase and celebrate the breadth of Black genius. I cannot recommend this cookbook enough.
One of the things I did to commemorate Juneteenth this year was to cook several recipes from Tipton-Martin’s book including one for collards and dumplings, wherein cornmeal dumplings are dropped into the greens and broth to cook. (This dish is reminiscent of fufu, a West African dish of boiled yams (or other starchy vegetable) that’s then pounded into a dough. The result is delicious.) I ended up using the leftover pot liquor from that recipe to cook my grits in the next day, which has put me in the mood for more iterations of this combo.
While I didn’t have collards around today, I did have beet and radish greens from the local market that needed cooking. So after sauteing some onions and garlic in bacon fat and then topping it off with a little homemade bone broth, a splash of apple cider vinegar, and a heavier splash of Crystal hot sauce, I put on the lid and let it cook on low for an hour.
When done, I tasted for salt and heat. Then I topped my finished girts.
Finally I poached an egg and topped the whole thing off with a pinch of Tony’s.
And that’s how you make lunch, dinner, breakfast, whatever! Make sure to tag us with #apocalycious with your take on Something & Grits!