I had to sneak this savory recipe into the book. Though, thematically, it is quite different from everything else in this book, grits—specifically these baked cheese grits—make up a large portion of my cooking and baking DNA. I was first introduced to grits—real stone-ground grits swimming in butter and cheese—while nursing a fairly nasty hangover during my first year of college at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa. It was the beginning of a beautiful relationship that has outlasted many others. Grits, a staple of Southern cuisine, are as homey, comfortable, variable, and delicious as America’s beloved macaroni and cheese. I hope everyone will have a chance to try this neglected delicacy, as it is more than just a Southern caricature and maligned stereotype. Honestly, grits in any form please me. They are wonderful without adornment, and even better with copious amounts of butter and cheese. This basic recipe for baked cheese grits (adapted from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook) is a breakfast crowd-pleaser and the perfect accompaniment to bacon or sausages.
Lightly butter the bottom and sides of a 10-inch cast-iron skillet or, alternatively, a similar size baking dish.
Pour the milk and 2 cups water into a medium saucepan, cover, and heat on medium-high until the mixture boils, about 5 minutes. Uncover the pot, add the grits, salt, and pepper, and reduce the heat to medium. Stir constantly until grits are the consistency of thick soup, about 8 minutes. Reduce to a simmer, stirring every 2 minutes, and cook for about 15 to 20 minutes to let the grits thicken further. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes longer, stirring constantly to prevent the grits from sticking to the bottom of the pan. The grits will be really thick at this point.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in ¾ cup of the cheddar cheese, ¾ cup of the Monterey Jack cheese, and the butter. Pour the grits into the prepared skillet and top them with the remaining cheeses. Turn the oven to broil.
Place the skillet directly under the heating element for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the cheese topping is melted and starts to brown. Serve immediately.
© 2010 All rights reserved. Published by Abrams Books.