Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Cheesy grits

In the RL weekly breakfast rotation, Monday belongs to Savory Cheddar Oatmeal. Until I ran out of oats a couple of weeks ago, that is. Since then, I’ve been trying to make some space in the pantry (via my insides) and simultaneously branch out in my exploration of some things that I have bought on a whim but have not since used to their full potential.

Those motivations were how, without really intending to, I made myself grits for breakfast last week. Or at least a reasonable facsimile of grits.

Grits, for those of you who don’t already know, is a breakfast porridge made from coarsely ground corn or hominy (which is corn that has been treated with alkali, via a process called nixtamalization, improving its nutritional value), cooked in boiling liquid, seasoned to taste, and served hot. Left to cool, it congeals and becomes firm enough to slice and fry. It is of Native American origin, and mainly available today in the regional cooking of the American South. It is similar in composition and texture to polenta.

Since my exposure to grits has been minimal (even though technically I’ve been living in the South for nearly two years), it wasn’t until I was well into consuming my breakfast that it dawned on me that it wasn’t original or even very unusual; merely another update of a dish so old that probably no one will ever know who first devised it.

Yankeefied cheesy grits
Most recipes for grits (and porridges generally) seem to call for cooking the grains in water, but I always use milk for at least half the liquid. It bumps up the nutritional value and the flavor.

1 part cornmeal*
3-4 parts milk or other liquid of your choice**
1-2 oz/30-60 g sharp cheddar cheese, thinly sliced or shredded
1-2 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled
salt & freshly ground black pepper

Combine the cornmeal and liquid in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-low heat. Lower the heat and simmer, stirring often, until nearly all the liquid has been absorbed and the cornmeal is cooked to a consistency that you like. (You may need to add more liquid than the amount specified here if you like your grits mushier than I do.)

When you are satisfied with the grits’ consistency, add the remaining ingredients and stir to distribute throughout the mixture. Taste for seasoning.

Serve hot. (I often eat mine straight out of the pan. Saves on washing up.)

Serves 1. Can be multiplied. Leftovers are great sliced, fried up in bacon fat, and served as part of a subsequent breakfast.

* I used about half a cup of coarsely ground cornmeal to make this batch. It would have fed 2 people easily.
** For this batch, about 2 cups/500 ml of liquid.

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