January 3, 2007

Do you call yourself a Southern?

How many of you have had the opportunity in indulging in one of the true southern staple foods: GRITS?

Well, if you haven’t had the chance to sample this great side dish I’ve got a great recipe for you to try out in your kitchen.

Growing up a southern, when I went to college to the University of Missouri-Columbia, I found that not many people knew what grits were. I would tease and call some of my friends Yankees (meaning this in only a teasing and kidding way) because they had never eaten or even heard of grits.

If I say grits and a person knows that they are and how to fix them, then I call them a true southern.

Here is how Wikipedia explains this southern dish: Coarsely ground meal of dried and hulled corn kernels which is boiled and eaten, primarily in the Southern United States.

For you all who don’t know the south but do know your cooking, grits is what Southerners have while the Italians are fixing to eat polenta.

Plain Grits

Now, a better question would be what the heck is hominy, because that’s what grits are made of and if you’re going to try to speak the language, you might as well get your facts straight. Hominy is the dried kernel of corn, after the hull and germ have been removed. Hominy is a native American food dating back at least 5,000 years, and was one of the first foods the Indians gave to the colonists. (The Italians, by the way, only got their corn meal for polenta by way of the Indians and colonists, so grits has at least a 4,500-year head start on polenta.)

Grits are always present at breakfast, and also very popular as a side dish of a main course at other meals. I’ll admit, grits are pretty bland, but they are rarely served plain. They come with sausage, eggs, biscuits and red-eye gravy for breakfast. They’re mixed with eggs, cooked with grated cheese or garlic, or baked into a casserole. Southern cooks also sauté shrimp and bacon and scallions and serve it on a bed of grits, or serve a spring chicken on grits, or quail on grits, etc.

Today I’m going to use this fine southern food in a casserole. Now, this recipe is not from my kitchen, but from one of the true southern ladies herself, Paula Deen. I caught up on all my Food Network shows this past weekend, over the New Year’s break, and saw Paula make this and I just had to try it!

Baked Garlic Cheese Grits
By Paula Deen

6 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 cups regular grits
16 ounces Cheddar, cubed
1/2 cup milk
4 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
8 ounces grated sharp white Cheddar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 4-quart casserole dish. Bring the broth, salt, pepper, and garlic powder to a boil in a 2-quart saucepan. Stir in the grits and whisk until completely combined. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the grits are thick, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the cubed Cheddar and milk and stir. Gradually stir in the eggs and butter, stirring until all are combined. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle with the white Cheddar and bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until set.

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