There may be no single food that stirs up more discussion than grits. Could it be the name? Gritty is not a word we usually associate with our favorite foods, but we didn’t hesitate to try polenta when it became popular and it’s essentially the same thing as grits. It’s my understanding that a lot of people have an unfortunate first experience with grits. Watery, unsalted grits sometimes served in Southern restaurants are not very good. (Think watery, unsalted oatmeal.) But cooked to a semi-thick, creamy texture with a little salt, they’re delicious. Southerners typically prefer to eat grits by adding a little butter and black pepper. However, some choose to add sugar for a sweeter rendition.
Grits are made up of coarsely ground corn. Most commercially produced grits have had the outside hull and germ removed from the corn kernel before milling. There are still smaller mills in existence that grind “whole grain” grits containing the bran and germ.
The Southern Food Revival has helped to upgrade the reputation of grits by serving them in creative new ways. When cooked, put in a loaf pan and chilled, grits can be sliced and pan fried. We’ve always simply called them fried grits, but served in a restaurant with rich sauce they are usually called referred to as grit cakes. The classic shrimp and grits has become a Southern favorite.
Many grit doubters have been converted once they’ve tasted flavorful dishes like this Maple Sausage and Cheese Grits Casserole. Grits Cream is a wonderful pudding made with grits, cream, sugar and vanilla and is delicious topped with fruit or berries.
Are you a grits lover? I’d love to hear how you eat them.