16 February 2009

Good Old Grits Cookbook

"The Southerner’s devotion to grits is really meant for grits-and-gravy, grits-and-ham, grits-and-sausage, grits-and-eggs, grits-with-meat-and-cheese, and so on ad infinitum"
Turner Catledge
New York Times

I cook grits ad infinitum. Good Old Grits Cookbook by Bill Neal &David Perry is a basic primer on grits. The definitive, multi-volume collection of grits recipes is yet to be compiled.

I got a call the other day from my fellow Alabamian, Harry Lowe who told me he had cooked grits as a side for his dinner. He credited me with the inspiration since I had cooked both ox tail with cheese grits and steak & grits for him.

I am not terribly opposed to quick cook grits, but really, no instant grits!! The best grits to cook are stone-ground, but they have a short shelf life. They need to be refrigerated or frozen as the natural oil from the germ is distributed through the grits and will turn them rancid. I have never managed to keep any grits long enough to go rancid, but I’ve heard it can happen.

Even thought you add the water at one time, cooking stone-ground grits is similar to cooking risotto in that you need to cook about 40 minutes and you need to allow all the water to be absorbed into the grain.

Basic Boiled Grits

Old recipes always direct you to first “wash” the grits. Even today most modern stone-ground grits need rinsing to separate the last remains of the hull or chaff from the kernel. Simply cover the grits with cold water. The meal will sink to the bottom, and the chaff will float to the surface where it can be skimmed off with a kitchen strainer.

1 cup stone-ground
4 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1. Pour the grits into a large bowl and cover with cold water. Skim off the chaff as it floats to the surface. Stir the grits about and skim again until all the chaff has been removed. Drain the grits in a sieve.
2. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a medium sized saucepan. Add the salt and slowly stir in the grits. Cook at a simmer, stirring frequently, until the grits are done -- they should be quite creamy – about 40 minutes.
3. Remove the grits from the heat and stir in the butter.

After you get the hang of cooking grits, the sky’s the limit. Add cheese, there are about 500 different kinds of cheese so you have 500 recipes right there!

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