Grits a perfect canvas for many flavoring options
There are grits. Then there are grits.
Yes, that is more profound than you can imagine and you'll soon see why.
Herein lies my approach to grits: I like them flavored. I like them creamy with a little grit -- which is convenient, since they are grits -- and I like them for any meal other than breakfast.
I have had the worst and the best bowl of grits and by far at its best grits are an amazing addition to any meal, especially if they're intensely flavored and creamy. That, however, is a tricky business and no easy feat.
In case you have never had them, let me paint the most perfect picture of bland for you and then you'll know where we're at with the whole grain in its natural form.
Who am I kidding? If you cook them using the recipe plastered on the side of the canister, then you're still at the lowest end of bland as you can get where even a cup of sugar has no heightening power. But that's in the past if you indulge in my approach. And why wouldn't you? Grits are cheap, store well and might be the most perfect canvas for hordes of flavoring options.
Now for a few rules: Never follow the directions according to the box. A loose interpretation of the instructions included will be quite enough. Meaning, use only the measuring guidelines on the box to prepare your grits with the following substitutions: cream, milk, butter, garlic, wine and gouda cheese. Yeah, that should transform bland into "Lawd have mercy!"
Actually, it really isn't that tricky to achieve a velvety smooth cheesy texture. Along with a few ingredients, "tricky" really means you just need to stick with it if you want the most delectable side dish that will make everyone think you're a well trained gourmet chef.
There is no secret and it's not a dish only the well trained can accomplish. Trust me, I know. Remember, I've had the best and the worst and sometimes the worst came from a five-star restaurant.
Your cooking time is going to be slightly reduced and you will be substituting water for milk and cream. This is a little strange since scalding the cream is not only possible but required. Scalding is not burning which is what I always thought. It is a method mostly used to kill bacteria and enzymes. But I need it to surpass the 180-degree temperature and settle in to a boil. This will help soften the grits and pull out the other flavors I'm including. It really is as simple as boiling the milk and cream and adding the gouda, wine and garlic.
Make your next meal a show stopper with this added side dish.
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup 2 percent milk
3/4 cup grits
1/2 tsp. salt
8 oz. shredded sharp cheddar white cheese or gouda cheese
1/8 cup merlot wine
3 cloves chopped garlic
2 T. butter
a little milk for creaming purposes
red pepper to taste
In a sauce pan over high heat, melt the 2 T. butter and add the garlic. Sauté for 1 minute. Add the cream, salt and milk and bring to a boil. Add the grits, stir and reduce the heat to simmer. Cook for 12 minutes and then add the cheese and red pepper. If this sets up too thick just add milk to make it creamy. Serve immediately or you'll have a grit pancake to serve. It's still good but more of a polenta consistency.
Janet McCormick is the owner of The Tea Room Cafe in Proctorville, Ohio, and the author of "10-Minute Meals." She can be reached at 304-654-2003 or www.10-minutemeals.com.