First, apologies for the delay in posting. This past week I have been in Arizona for a teacher training event. This is super exciting because it means that starting August 20th I get to be the Latin teacher for every 5th and 6th grader who goes through BASIS Independent Silicon Valley! Yay!
Alright, now for some Southern Grits!
To be honest, my relationship with grits has been rather tumultuous. As a child, I was not very good at managing these tiny grains during breakfast and became very frustrated when I would find them in various places throughout the school day (I kid you not- they were on my arms, once on my leg….). In middle school, I had a very brief affair with Quaker’s instant grits because I discovered salted butter. Thus, my history with them has been unremarkable to say the least.
As I continue along this journey, attempting to experience more Southern foods, I have finally returned to grits and decided to manufacture a good recipe. I wanted to make a recipe that could easily be fitted to the needs of vegan friends, who often get lost in the Southern food world because everybody loves butter. I learned so much during the research for this post, and I do believe that my trouble with grits was due in large part to ignorance.
“Pity pretty much the entire rest of the world: They just don’t seem to get grits. But don’t judge too harshly. The ‘quick’ or ‘instant’ varieties that have become ubiquitous these days bear only a passing resemblance to a good bowl of ground hominy and certainly don’t do any favors for converting the skeptical.” (Southerner’s Handbook, 18)
Things of note: technically, hominy is a Mexican food that is very similar to grits, but not ground as finely. Note: this does not mean that grits should be ground finely! This is very very important. When you go shopping for grits, look for the words: stone-ground and white corn. You want the stuff you buy to be like grain, not a powder.
Unfortunately, I do not live in a place that sells good grits. You can get them shipped by mail (which is what the Southerner’s Handbook recommends), but I am never that prepared for grits and to be honest the only food that I refuse to replace with a non-Southern version is Duke’s mayo. So, I buy Red Mill. But if you are fortunate enough to be in the South, or near a grocery store that sells Southern goods, I would definitely recommend Anson Mills! This is my favorite and not just because it comes from South Carolina (I went to college there). It really is ground to the perfect consistency and is great for first-time grits makers!
Concerning Red Mill white corn grits, let’s get one thing straight: I do not care what the package says, you are not making polenta. The fact that Red Mill advertises their white corn grits as being “AKA polenta” is very upsetting to me and I almost gave up on the brand for that reason. BUT I realize that with a different recipe, the same stuff could be used to make okay polenta.
Grits are actually a traditional Native American dish, and while there are many variations from various food cultures around the world (like polenta and hominy), they are not all the same thing.
1 cup stone ground grits
3 cups vegetable broth (or chicken broth, or water)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper (or white pepper, if you’ve got it!)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons salted butter
The Southerner’s Handbook, which recommends shipping your grits special cross-country, also explains that grits need to be soaked in broth for an entire night before being cooked. While I appreciate this method very much, and would love to go to a restaurant where someone has done this for me, I will not be soaking my grits. For me, I decide I want grits and I expect to be eating grits within half an hour of making that decision, so the whole 24 hour wait-time thing doesn’t work. But if you are super interested in giving this a shot, feel free to try it! The specific instructions are on pg 19 of the Southerner’s Handbook, which you can view a little bit of on Amazon.
For my novice recipe, I mixed the grits in a large pot with the broth over medium-low heat.
I let them cook for 10-15 minutes, until they became very thick and creamy.
As I was stirring, I made sure to use a whisk. This keeps those lumps from forming, and ensures that all the meal is thoroughly cooked. Next, I added in the salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese.
Everything is stirred together until it gets creamy again, and then it’s ready to eat!
Grits are best when served immediately after cooking.
Note for Vegans: I have listed the Parmesan and butter as optional (I didn’t even use butter for this recipe). Everyone should be able to enjoy grits, and with the vegetable broth, I promise that it won’t be flavorless. But, if you are planning on following my recipe, I would recommend that you not use water (try the vegetable broth option) since you are skipping the cheese and butter. That could potentially lead to some very bland grits!