Grits make hearty breakfast, dinner
When I was growing up, hot cereal referred to something white in a box — cream of wheat or cream of rice — or maybe oatmeal.
Then I met the South. My husband grew up in southern Florida, and he introduced me to the cereal of his childhood: grits.
To hear him tell it, he ate grits every morning for breakfast and their cousin, corn meal mush, at dinner each night.
Grits are good, filling, cook up quickly and are suitable for family members with Celiac disease as well as the general masses. We don’t have them every day, but generally they show up on the table once a week or so.
Grits are corn kernels, dried and crushed. There are two kinds: corn grits and hominy grits. Hominy means the corn was first soaked in an alkali solution (like pickling lime) to remove the hulls and to swell the kernels. Then it’s dried and crushed.
Native Americans invented making hominy, and it’s the key ingredient in masa harina, the corn flour used for making tortillas.
Hominy grits make a smoother finished cereal than corn grits, and that’s what you’ll generally find in the cereal aisle in the store. I’ve bought corn grits from health food stores, but the family prefers hominy, and I know where to find it in five-pound bags.
Easy to cook
Cooking grits is just like cooking any cereal — boil water, add grits and stir, turn down the heat and simmer until done. Quick grits take about five minutes, about a cup of water to a quarter-cup of grits.
For old-fashioned grits, if you can find them, you use more water — five cups water to one cup of grits — but cook them a lot slower. Simmer on low for anywhere from half and hour to an hour and a half. You can even cook them overnight in a small slow-cooker on low.
Old-fashioned grits come out a lot creamier than quick grits. But quick grits are good too — and they’re quick, which is handy in the morning.
Northerners tend to pour milk and sugar onto their grits, something that galls my husband. Southerners, he contends, are content with butter and salt.
For breakfast grits, I like to stir in an egg or two just before they’re done cooking, to add protein. Sometimes I add cheese and sausages, for a full meal in a bowl. That’s good for a car breakfast when the kids are late for school.
We make “cheesy grits” as a dinner side, with added egg and grated cheese — cheddar, swiss, Parmesan — whatever is on hand or whatever fits the rest of the meal.
Grits have gone highbrow too, showing up at fancy restaurants cooked in milk or chicken stock, and served with shrimp or mushrooms.
If you have leftover grits from your breakfast pot, pour them into a loaf pan, where they will set. Then you can fry slices of them to go with your dinner. That is such a good idea that we often make extra grits in the morning so we can have slices at dinner time.
They’re good on their own. They’re great topped with sauted mushrooms, or mushroom gravy, or steamed greens, or asparagus, or sausages.
Or just stick with butter and salt.
“In & Out of the Kitchen,” a wide-ranging column about cooking, eating and buying food, is written by Gazette staffers. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.