As I mentioned in an earlier blog I was trying to come up with a way to make Grits and Turnip greens a hand held, bite sized food. I have made Grits for years as a baked cheese filled casserole. That is the thing about grits, they are good with butter and salt just as a side, but they are fabulous if you add fresh sauteed garlic and good sharp cheddar to the mix. And they are showing up in some of the finest restaurants. A few years ago, about 5, I had the pleasure of attending a family reunion/vacation with my husbands Mother and step-father and her family, most of whom are from Minnesota and Indiana. We all met at a large pre-civil war home we had rented right outside of Asheville, NC. The state and heart of my younger years. There were about 19 of us. There was actually a table in the dining room that sat all of us at one time, but the dining room had actually been the original log cabin that was built at the foot of a small mountain in the early 1800’s. It had been added onto in the mid 1800’s and was turned into an elegant home. The table was close to 12 feet long. The deal was, each family was responsible for cooking dinner for everyone else for 1 night of the week we were there. So being the only person there that had actually grown up in the south (Aunt Judy is a southerner as she was born below the Mason-Dixon, but didn’t get to grow up here), I figured a southern meal was the ticket. Grits of course! I had no way of knowing if anyone coming had actually ever had grits, Aunt Judy did confess to having the instant ones that come in an individual serving that you add boiling water to, so that doesn’t count. My though was, if you add enough cheese to anything most people are going to eat it. So that I could spread the work around, my husband Keith grilled Tri-tip roasts, because cooking for 19 people is not for the faint of heart. And I had grits, a cauldron of them to prepare, cornbread and fresh peach cake to make.
When the large PANS of baked yummy, bubbly, cheesy grits were served there were a few adults and some children that really didn’t know what they were, and then they tasted them and didn’t care. So here’s how you do this.
Creamy Cheesy Grits
Go buy a bag of grits, Stone ground are best if you can find them, Yeltons are the brand I like because I grew up on them and the mill was really close to my Granny’s home. Do Not get the instant ones they are nasty, the quick cook ones are ok but the ones you have to cook for 30 minutes or longer are better. Read the package directions, add the salt as directed and cook them accordingly ,EXCEPT, use whole milk instead of water. THIS MAKES THEM CREAMY and WONDERFUL. You must stir these grits to keep them moving, milk burns quicker than water. So turn the temp down slightly so as not to scorch them. I also add a few dashes of ground red pepper during the cooking process. I like a little heat. I usually make about 12 servings for 4 people, they are that good. And they warm up great.
While you grits are cooking, in a small skillet melt about 1/2 stick of butter and saute gently 3 to 4 cloves of fresh crushed chopped garlic until slightly brown and tender, if you love garlic add more. But remember what you are serving the grits with, beef add more, shrimp I usually stick to 3 to 4 cloves.
When the grits are done add the sauteed garlic and butter to them, add 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes. Then stir in 12 oz of shredded extra sharp white cheddar, shred it yourself, don’t get the pre-shredded kind it makes its gritty. Spread it out in a buttered 9″x 11″ pan and put more shredded cheese on top, bake it off in a 350 degree oven until bubbly on top.
I have made these to serve with Shrimp and grits and used Parmesan and asiago cheese instead of cheddar and they are great.
The last time I made them I wanted them to be a bite sized appetizer so I mixed in extra cheese so they would be stiffer. I did not bake them off but dropped them by the spoonfull into paper lined muffin tins. The tiny tins are best, about the size of a silver dollar. To the top I added braised turnip/mustard greens and chopped purple onions. A perfect bite.
Braised Turnip/Mustard Greens
I like the combination of turnip and mustard together. The thing I like about greens is their bitterness so I enhance that with red pepper flakes and butter. I also do not believe in over cooking greens. Buy 2 sacks of greens, one turnip and one mustard, buy a lot more than you think you need, they disappear when you cook them. Clean them good by soaking in water and rubbing them to remove the sand while removing the stems. Do not dry them. Melt about 3 tablespoons of butter in a big deep pot until it starts to sizzle, add the wet greens, as they start to wilt stir them up from the bottom and let the uncooked ones get next to the heat, if you couldn’t get all the greens in at first add the rest as there is room. While stirring add in 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes and 1 cube of chicken bullion crushed. Once they have wilted down stir them around good and add about 1/2 to 1 cup of water, let them simmer for about 7 minutes. Adjust salt and red pepper to taste.
To serve as an appetizer put a good clump of drained greens on top of the cooled grit cakes in the paper cups, sprinkle finely chopped purple onions on top and serve with pepper vinegar and hot sauce on the side. Yummy!
If you’ve never had grits or have only had the ones served at restaurants you probably don’t like them… understandable. They are usually watery and tasteless, no amount of butter or salt will help at that point. You must season them while while they are cooking and using milk makes a huge difference in the flavor. I have heard that some people have been known to put sugar in their grits at breakfast but they aren’t from here and we don’t know them personally, I imagine they are confused and lost and have never read my blog. Please point them in the right direction for me. If you are reading this I would LOVE IT if you would leave a comment.
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