Grits are a Southern food icon, usually served for breakfast, and not surprisingly, are mostly eaten in the South, from the Carolinas to Texas. But like so many wholly American foods, grits actually originated with Native Americans -- the Muskogee, or Creek, tribe -- as part of how the tribe prepared corn; they ground the corn in a stone mill, and that resulted in a "gritty" texture, just the coarseness found in what's now called grits in the raw form. The Muskogee are descendants of the Creek Confederacy, a group of Native American tribes indigenous to the Southeast woodland areas. So it's no surprise that grits evolved as a key part of Southern cooking. Grits are either coarsely ground corn or its cousin, hominy. Grits are generally boiled in water, but if milk is used, the consistency is creamier, as it is in this recipe. The secret of these grits is the inclusion of cream cheese, which offers additional sultry creaminess to the grits, which benefit from a bolt of flavor from the salt, butter and cheese.
- 4 cups milk
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon hot sauce (optional)
- 1 cup quick-cooking grits
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 cup cream cheese
- 1 cup cheddar cheese
- Mix milk, salt, pepper and hot sauce in a medium-size pot. Bring the liquid to a slight boil over medium-high heat.
- When the milk is bubbling, whisk in the grits. Reduce the heat, letting grits cook until thickened, about 5 minutes.
- Add the butter, cream cheese and cheddar cheese to the grits, stirring until they are melted into the grits. Taste, adjust seasonings, if necessary, and serve.
Serve grits as a carb side for breakfast with bacon and eggs instead of hash browns.
Doctor them up with cheddar cheese, butter and sausage. Or serve with country-style ham and red-eye gravy. Add bacon or onions for more flavor, mix in all three meats for meat-lovers' grits or top with a fried egg.
Shrimp and grits is a South Carolina Lowcountry specialty that typically also includes bacon, bell peppers, cheddar cheese and hot sauce or hot spices. More upscale versions add Parmesan cheese and mushrooms and turn into a casual dinner entree. Shrimp and grits has spread out from its Southern roots to gain a national following and was a "dish of the month" in San Francisco in 2014.
Besides changing up what you add to grits, you can cook them differently. Although they are most often boiled, you can also fry or bake them for a twist on the dish.