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Grits, grits, grits!


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First, grits and polenta are not the same thing. Polenta is really just coarsely ground cornmeal that has been cooked into a mush. Grits go through a chemical process to separate the hull from the harder bran. Polenta generally has a higher bran content than grits, making them have a bit more "corn" flavor and with a coarser texture. Plus, of course, grits are generally made with white corn and polenta is made with yellow corn.

Historians have claimed that grits have been essential for the survival of Southerners for nearly 400 years, starting with the colonists in Jamestown, VA, who were shown how to make grits by the Native Americans. Because of the chemical processing of grits, they have a much longer shelf life than polenta, particularly in the humidity of the South. Shelf life is also why oatmeal isn't nearly as popular in the South. It has been said that many Southerners stayed alive through the Great Depression because of grits.

Many people don't like grits, but they'll readily eat polenta. I think that's changing. The late Bill Neal revived an old fisherman's breakfast, making shrimp and grits a Southern cliche. Cheese grits are found in restaurants in the North and South.

I eat grits quite frequently. I'll make a pot of grits for dinner, often with cheese and herbs. I'll let the grits sit in the pot over night, and then make fried grits cakes for lunch the next day. With a few sauteed mushrooms, you'll eat very well.

I'm looking for ways to use grits for desserts or sweet breakfast dishes. Any ideas?

Grits are a versatile flavor carrier. Chipotle chilis, sun dried tomatoes, even truffles work well with grits. What do you do with your grits?

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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Grits just have a bad name, that's all. I'll often bring shrimp and grits (cliche? maybe. delicious? you bet) to a potluck. It's fun to tell people what I've brought and watch that little shadow of doubt and disgust pass across their face for a second. Once they've tried it, they go apeshit, loving it of course... If I just called the dish "Lowcountry Polenta" or something like that, there'd be more initial acceptance. But as you point out, that wouldn't be true to their essential grititude.

At home, I like adding roasted red pepper puree to grits. Pink grits!

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I seem to recall a grits cheesecake. Wasn't it in Bill Neal and David Perry's grits cookbook? I think I even tested the recipe somewhere along the way and it wasn't bad. But maybe I'm dreaming.

Kathleen Purvis, food editor, The Charlotte (NC) Observer

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Ha! Found it -- and it has stains on it from when I cooked it. Lucious Peachy Grits Cheesecake, in the same chapter with Grits Pudding and Creamy Butterscotch Grits. The cheesecake is 2 eggs, 2/3 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, 8 ounces of cream cheese, 2 cups cooked, cooled grits. Beat together for 10 minutes on high speed, pour in 2 graham cracker crusts and bake 25 minutes at 350 degrees. Raise temp to 400. Remove pie from oven and cool 10 minutes. Mix 8 ounces sour cream and a 20-ounce can peach pie filling. Spread over pies and return to oven for 10 minutes.

Just proves another theory. From spackling wall crackers to sticking posters on the wall: Ain't nothing grits can't do.

Kathleen Purvis, food editor, The Charlotte (NC) Observer

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Grits are the best! I have a hard time understanding how it could be that someone wouldn't like them. One thing I have never understood is where so many Northerners get the idea that grits should be eaten with sugar and milk... No wonder they don't like it.

Anyway, one of my favorite dishes with grits comes from my neighborhood hangout, @SQC on the UWS. It was a salmon fillet of the "crispy skin" type sitting on some wild mushrooms and served with truffled grits (i.e., stone ground grits with some truffle paste and truffle oil folded in). I never would have thought of this, although it seems perfectly natural to me now. Delicious and easy to make at home. Great with fish or chicken.

--

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One thing I have never understood is where so many Northerners get the idea that grits should be eaten with sugar and milk...  No wonder they don't like it.

I think they're making the analogy with hot cereals. It's a reasonable enough assumption if you don't know any better. (Though maybe I'm covering my ass here: the first time I ever saw grits was in college, and I assumed you'd eat them sweet. Fortunately, my Southern friends taught me better...)

Anyway, one of my favorite dishes with grits comes from my neighborhood hangout, @SQC on the UWS.

Too many acronyms... confused...

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Anyway, one of my favorite dishes with grits comes from my neighborhood hangout, @SQC on the UWS.
Too many acronyms... confused...

D'oh! I get used to saying certain things and assume everyone understands me. We New Yorkers get that way sometimes (e.g., "the city" = Manhattan).

Anyway... @SQC = name of restaurant. UWS = Upper West Side (in Manhattan).

--

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.......I'm looking for ways to use grits for desserts or sweet breakfast dishes.  Any ideas?

Grits are a versatile flavor carrier.  Chipotle chilis, sun dried tomatoes, even truffles work well with grits.  What do you do with your grits?

Cooked in Milk, pinch Salt, very little Sugar, finished by incorporating an Egg Yolk, some chopped candied Ginger, topped with finely minced Cilantro leaves and Demerara Sugar.

Peter
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Grits may differ from polenta, but I have successfully used them as a substitute. I made a vegetarian "grits" lasagna that turned out great. Use yellow grits, pour prepared grits into a 13x9" pan and refrigerate. Then use slices of the grits as a substitute for the noodles in your lasagna recipe - I layered mine with sauteed zucchini, mushrooms, pepper and onions and a purchased sun-dried tomato sauce...cheese of course. Twas yummy. :rolleyes:

Nothin' better than Cheese Grits :wub:

I've also had "Grits Cakes" which are nothing more than seasoned grits, chilled and then fried up in a little butter. Also very tasty and a good alternative to English Muffins - with poached eggs on top.

"Never eat more than you can lift" -- Miss Piggy

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The appetizer course for an ACF competition earlier this year was grilled scallops and wild mushrooms on a fried grit-cake. We used the jus from the reconstituted morels to make the grits with, and dusted them with a little seasoned flour before pan-frying them. Deliciously crunchy on the outside, with a gorgeous delicate brown color on the inside.

Marsha Lynch aka "zilla369"

Has anyone ever actually seen a bandit making out?

Uh-huh: just as I thought. Stereotyping.

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Having lived near Chicago my whole life, I'm pretty doubtful that are any good places to get grits around here (or maybe this is a wrong assumption?) But either way, I think Anson Mills in South Carolina (link here) has a great product and always call them up when I get a craving.

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The appetizer course for an ACF competition earlier this year was grilled scallops and wild mushrooms on a fried grit-cake.  We used the jus from the reconstituted morels to make the grits with, and dusted them with a little seasoned flour before pan-frying them.  Deliciously crunchy on the outside, with a gorgeous delicate brown color on the inside.

Damn, that sounds good! I do scallops, mushrooms and grits all the time, but that's quite a different approach.

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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A former roommate of mine was from Atlanta and turned me on to grits. LOVE them! Ultimate comfort food when you're home feeling ill. Now I always order grits instead of toast if it's an option with breakfast.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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A former roommate of mine was from Atlanta and turned me on to grits.  LOVE them!  Ultimate comfort food when you're home feeling ill. Now I always order grits instead of toast if it's an option with breakfast.

No, no, no, Katie. You order grits AND toast (assuming biscuits aren't an option). You put the grits on the toast/biscuits, with your eggs and bacon. Instant bite of heaven.

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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Extensive scientific evidence (meaning, of course, I spend a lot of time watching people eat) shows that the biggest mistake the "regionally challenged" (the people formerly known as Yankees) make when first confronted with grits is that they try to eat them plain. Red-eye gravy, bits of egg yolk, salt, pepper, butter, corn syrup, your sleeve -- all are fair game to stir into your grits. But don't eat them plain until you've eaten a whole lot of them.

In the interest of throwing out another grits possibility: Grits souffle. It's really good. Oh, there's Scott Peacock's shrimp paste stirred into grits. Lovely. And Frank Stitts' grits timbales. And ... well, I could get carried away.

Kathleen Purvis, food editor, The Charlotte (NC) Observer

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:biggrin:

Ryne, if you find yourself near a Dixie Kitchen & Bait Shop (like the one in Evanston, IL, for example), order some cheese grits with breakfast if they don't come on the side already. Lovely stuff.

:biggrin:

Me, I vote for the joyride every time.

-- 2/19/2004

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:biggrin:

Ryne, if you find yourself near a Dixie Kitchen & Bait Shop (like the one in Evanston, IL, for example), order some cheese grits with breakfast if they don't come on the side already.  Lovely stuff.

:biggrin:

There's also a Dixie Kitchen & Bait shop at 53rd & Harper in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago.

I'm another Yankee who loves grits. My sidekick and I stopped by a Waffle House on the outskirts of St. Louis when we decided to eat grits like the natives did. Mighty fine eatin'! :laugh:

There are two sides to every story and one side to a Möbius band.

borschtbelt.blogspot.com

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Scott Peacock's shrimp paste stirred into grits.

Ugh. You said shrimp paste, kp. Bad memories of concentrated sweat socks are returning.

Hey, you ordered it, kemosabe. The nice lady did say "you no like." And I deserve credit: I haven't publicly mocked your unwillingness to try it. At chowhound, somebody would have snapped your fork in half, like the opening credits on "Branded."

But if you've never tried Peacock's shrimp paste, I urge you to do it. Not stinky at all. It's basically just potted shrimp, and it makes an amazingly wonderful cocktail nibble, sandwich spread, pretty pink swirl in grits.

The basic directions: Cook shelled fresh shrimp in 6 tablespoons melted butter in a skillet with salt and pepper until pink. Use a slotted spoon to remove the shrimp and drop them in a food processor. Add 1/4 cup sherry, 2 tablespoons lemon juice and a shake of cayenne to the skillet, return to heat and boil until reduced. Add to shrimp and process. Cut the rest of the butter into bits and drop it into the food processor with the motor running. Pack the shrimp into a crock and refrigerate up to 1 week. Serve at room temp.

See? No dirty socks.

sorry, edited to add amount of shrimp: 1 pound.

Edited by kpurvis (log)

Kathleen Purvis, food editor, The Charlotte (NC) Observer

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  • 3 years later...
First, grits and polenta are not the same thing.  Polenta is really just coarsely ground cornmeal that has been cooked into a mush.  Grits go through a chemical process to separate the hull from the harder bran.  Polenta generally has a higher bran content than grits, making them have a bit more "corn" flavor and with a coarser texture.  Plus, of course, grits are generally made with white corn and polenta is made with yellow corn. 

Can we revisit this issue?

I was in the natural foods section of Fairway in New York City the other day, hoping to find some better grits than Quaker (which is all they sell in most NYC stores), and I stumbled across a wall of bagged grain products from Bob's Red Mill. The package says it's grits -- coarse-ground yellow corn grits -- and it also says it's polenta. "Grits-polenta" is how the product is listed in the company's catalog.

Searching online, I found several places where it says that grits are hulled and polenta is not. But I'm not sure I understand. I thought hulled corn was known as hominy, and that the grits made from hominy were hominy grits. Is it not the case that, if you make grits from un-hulled corn, they're still grits -- just not hominy grits? Or is hominy part and parcel of the definition of grits?

In terms of white and yellow corn, presumably grits can be made from any color of corn and still be grits. The white corn is just a majority preference, not a rule, right?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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First, grits and polenta are not the same thing.  Polenta is really just coarsely ground cornmeal that has been cooked into a mush.  Grits go through a chemical process to separate the hull from the harder bran.  Polenta generally has a higher bran content than grits, making them have a bit more "corn" flavor and with a coarser texture.  Plus, of course, grits are generally made with white corn and polenta is made with yellow corn. 

Can we revisit this issue?

I was in the natural foods section of Fairway in New York City the other day, hoping to find some better grits than Quaker (which is all they sell in most NYC stores), and I stumbled across a wall of bagged grain products from Bob's Red Mill. The package says it's grits -- coarse-ground yellow corn grits -- and it also says it's polenta. "Grits-polenta" is how the product is listed in the company's catalog.

Searching online, I found several places where it says that grits are hulled and polenta is not. But I'm not sure I understand. I thought hulled corn was known as hominy, and that the grits made from hominy were hominy grits. Is it not the case that, if you make grits from un-hulled corn, they're still grits -- just not hominy grits? Or is hominy part and parcel of the definition of grits?

In terms of white and yellow corn, presumably grits can be made from any color of corn and still be grits. The white corn is just a majority preference, not a rule, right?

It is my understanding that white grits are actually "Hominy Grits." That is treated with Lye and hulled. Yellow grits, particularly "speckled heart grits" are the dried and ground whole kernal. The best I have ever eaten came from the grist mill at Calloway Gardens in Georgia. Cornmeal on the other hand, is yellow or white according to the type of corn used.

I've eaten many more grits and cornmeal in various grinds and preparations than I have polenta. Having said that, I have found that polenta is typically finer than grits, but not as fine as cornmeal. I find the preparations and recipes similar, and the flavor is pretty much consistent wether you call it polenta or grits. The texture is a little different, but barely. Especially if you go with a creamy preparation for grits. Fried grits and fried polenta - well, you wouldn't be able to tell the difference side by side on the same plate.

Bob's Red Mill is a great product line. I think you will be happy with it.

Anne

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So, to rephrase, you're saying that white grits are white not because they're made from white corn but, rather, because the process of removing the hull with lye whitens the product?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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