Thursday, September 6, 2012

Southern-Style Cheddar Grits

The lazy Summer days are quickly fading.  I have a feeling that since the heat came early this Spring, we might see our first snowfall by mid-October.  In the meantime, we are trying to soak up the remainder of the Summer sun.  Matthew is doing his part by eating more than his fair share of popsicles.  He loves the things so much, that Paul and I have already stocked up on some extra boxes of Pop-ice before they become scarce during the Fall and Winter.

At least Matthew is more than willing to share his favorite treat...

Even though the temperatures are still in the mid-90s, I have begun to crave warm soups, curries, and other comfort foods.  Last Sunday, Paul and I decided that cheese grits sounded like the perfect thing to make for breakfast.  The warm, cheesy, slightly textured consistency of the grits pairs beautifully with a perfectly poached or fried egg and some crisp bacon.  Comfort food at its finest.

Grits are made pretty much the same way as polenta, only grits are usually white because they are made from ground hominy, not corn.  The texture ends up being a little more grainy than the smooth, almost porridge-like consistency of a good polenta.  If I had to choose between the two, it would be rough...they are both delicious and can easily be eaten straight from the saucepan (this almost happened with our pot of grits, but I quickly grabbed a nearby spatula and was able to beat away my hungry, thieving husband and save some breakfast for Matthew and myself!).  

This is a dish that we make often during the winter.  Sometimes, I will substitute coarse-ground cornmeal for the ground hominy and make a more textured polenta (using the same method outlined below but substituting Parmesan for the cheddar), and then serve it topped with Eggs Diavolo (eggs poached in spicy Italian-style tomatoes).  Divine.  However, Paul's favorite combination is the classic, cheddar grits topped with pieces of crisp-fried bacon, and fried eggs. 

As for Mr. Matthew?  He just picks out the bacon.

Cheese Grits with Eggs and Bacon
adapted from Alton Brown

2 cups whole milk
2 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup coarse grits (NOT instant) or coarse-ground cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 ounces sharp Cheddar, shredded
6 slices thick-cut bacon
6+ eggs (matter of preference!)

Place the milk, water, and salt into a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Once the milk mixture comes to a boil, gradually add the cornmeal while continually whisking. Once all of the cornmeal has been incorporated, decrease the heat to low and cover. Remove lid and whisk frequently, every 3 to 4 minutes, to prevent grits from sticking or forming lumps; make sure to get into corners of pot when whisking. Cook for 20 to 25 minutes or until mixture is creamy.

While the grits are cooking, fry bacon in a skillet until crispy.  Drain on paper towels until ready to serve.  During the last 5 minutes that the grits are cooking, poach or fry the eggs as desired so they will be finished at approximately the same time as the grits.

Remove from the heat, add the pepper and butter, and whisk to combine. Once the butter is melted, gradually whisk in the cheese a little at a time.

Spoon into 4-6 individual, shallow bowls.  Top with some crumbled bacon and one or two of the poached/fried eggs.  Sprinkle with coarse black pepper and serve immediately!

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