Two things someone will hand you as soon as you walk across the Mason-Dixon line are grits and biscuits. When I was young, I lived in Washington state for several years. We moved there from Mississippi, so, as you can imagine, I stood out. My teachers thought my Southern accent was adorable. My friends actually thought I was from a foreign country.
Anyway, I can remember that my grandma used to send us care packages that included boxes of grits. Why? Because in the 1970s, no one outside of the South had ever heard of grits or biscuits, at least not in my experience. If you wanted grits, you got cream of wheat. And, seriously, if you’ve ever had good grits, how could you possibly settle for cream of wheat??
Fast forward forty years. The world has evolved. When I go to New York, I can find biscuits if I look hard enough, although bagels are still the preferred breakfast bread. While most folks have figured out biscuits at this point (although I would argue that no one who lives where it snows can do them right), grits are still a bit of a mystery. When it comes to grits, Joe Pesci in My Cousin Vinny had one of the best lines of all times: “Sure, sure I’ve heard of grits. I’ve just never actually SEEN a grit before.”
A “grit” is an amazing culinary experience, if done correctly. If not, it is a flavorless mouthful of sandpaper. So if you’ve had bad grits before, you need to understand that it wasn’t the grit’s fault. And here’s a tip: if your only experience with grits involved a buffet, life has been very unfair to you. There is no way to make buffet grits taste good. Trust me on this.
If you want to give grits a fair chance, cheese grits are the way to go. Here’s how you make a good grit. In fact, you can saute some shrimp in butter, Worcestershire, cayenne, and Tabasco, add bacon, and dump it on top of these to make amazing shrimp and grits.
4 cups milk
1 cup quick cooking grits
1/2 tsp salt (don’t skimp on the salt–in my humble opinion, unsalted grits are gross)
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1/4 cup cream cheese
2 tbs butter
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Bring milk, salt and pepper to a slight boil on medium high heat. Whisk in grits slowly, stirring constantly to prevent lumps.Reduce heat and cook until thick or until desired tenderness and consistency (about 5 minutes).
Cut cream cheese into chunks and add into grits with cheese and butter. Stir until well blended and all cheese has dissolved.