Grits … most people around here love them, but some people just grit their teeth. “Uh, no thank you” is the adamant comment; my husband is included in the latter group. I just don’t understand it. He loves corn, all corn. Corn on the cob, creamed corn, corn and peas, sautéed corn and onions, creamy corn and crab soup, and even cornbread. All of these and more are include on his list of corn recipes he likes. I made him my famous Lowcountry shrimp and grits but alas, he wasn’t biting!
How can grits – a simple, dried kernel of corn with the hull and germ removed, then ground like regular cornmeal, but coarser – taste nothing like other corn-based recipes? No, it isn’t boiled ground corn, which makes polenta. It is a southern thing. Most of the grits sold in the United States are bought in the South, in the "grits belt, Texas to Virginia,” and the state of Georgia named grits its official prepared food in 2002. In South Carolina, a bill was introduced naming it the official state food.
Now I only use regular grits, yellow or white, and never, I repeat never, do I used quick grits even though I am told quick grits are the most common version in supermarkets. It must be purchased by Northerners as I don’t know anyone who buys quick grits!
Now, in defense of my husband’s comments, I really didn’t know if I loved grits until I lived in Baton Rouge. Yes, I liked them but love is a strong word. Then Wow! I was served the richest, creamiest, smoothest and tastiest grits I have ever tasted. Yes, I love them. I was the general manager of the Camelot Club, a 33-year-old prestigious dining club on the top floor of a bank building overlooking the Mississippi River. The club served a complimentary breakfast every weekday to the members and always on the menu was hot, smooth and creamy grits. As the new GM I was there every morning at 7 a.m. greeting members and enjoying a bowl of grits as I looked out the floor-to-ceiling windows and watched the sun rise over the daily parade of barges and tugboats sailing down the river to destinations beyond the visible horizon. A wonderful way to start any day.
One day I arrived exceptionally early and decided to watch the chef make the grits. I hoped of learning his secret to the best-tasting grits I have ever put into my mouth. And behold, I found out the secret and just about fell over … butter and whipping cream. Yes, that was his secret; he used no water, just butter and either whipping cream or half-and-half. OMG! The calories, the cholesterol, the fat, the flavor; yes, it was perfect! That weekend I recreated the chef’s masterpiece, his pot of grits. Yes, that was the secret – butter and cream – but my husband still didn’t care much for them. All the more for my family!
So for those of you that love the humble grit, “Please join my table as we devour a bowl of the South’s finest!”
My Roasted Corn Grits
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
1-1/2 to 2 cups frozen corn kernels
1 cup finely chopped shallots or onions
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup butter
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup yellow corn grits (do not use instant)
3 cups chicken bone broth or stock (use this in place of water on package directions)
1/2 teaspoon Cajun seasoning or to taste
Sliced green onion tops and grated cheddar cheese for garnish
DIRECTIONS: Place 2 tablespoons EVOO in a large skillet on the stove over medium-high heat; add corn and roast in the pan until slightly golden and slightly charred and blackened; remove from pan and set aside. In the same large skillet, melt the butter, add the onions and saute’ until slightly soft; add garlic and cook until both are softened. With chicken bone broth or stock, prepare the grits according to the package directions. They should be very soft. When the grits are almost done, add the corn kernels, sautéed onions and garlic, and cream. Simmer, stirring constantly, for about five minutes or longer until thickened. Season with Cajun seasoning, salt and pepper to taste. Serve in bowls and top with sliced green onions and grated cheddar cheese.
This is the recipe I use when making shrimp and grits.
Easy Shrimp and Grits in a Slow Cooker
1-1/2 cups grits (not instant)
4 cups vegetable broth or more as needed
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup shredded Manchego cheese
1 cup frozen corn
1 jalapeno pepper, diced
A few dashes hot sauce (think Tabasco)
1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon Emeril’s Essence
16 ounces (1 pound) raw large or extra large shrimp, peeled, deveined
DIRECTIONS: In a Crockpot or slow cooker, combine grits, vegetable broth, cream, milk, cheese, corn, jalapeno pepper, hot sauce, Emeril’s Essence and salt. Stir, cover, and cook the grits in the Crockpot on low 3-1/2 to 4-1/2 hours until the grits are soft and cooked through. (The cooking time will depend on the kind of grits you use, and the shape, size and temperature of your slow cooker. If the grits aren't cooked through, but the liquid is almost absorbed, add more broth and increase the cooking time.) Add shrimp to the Crockpot. Cover and cook for another 4-8 minutes, until the shrimp are pink and completely opaque. Ladle into shallow bowls to serve, arranging the shrimp on top of the grits if desired.