Thursday, November 20, 2008

Grits 101

The grits that we made during my Low Country cooking class were without a doubt the hit of the class. Before I can get into the recipe that I promised for Shrimp and Grits, we must first talk grits. And I'm not talking about that pablum that Quaker tries to pawn off on the world.

I'm talking about real deal grits, fresh, extremely coarse, long cooking grits. With something as simple as grits, the devil is in the details, so you better buy the best grits you can. I know none finer than the Antebellum Coarse Grits from Anson Mills in Columbia, SC. and I speak from over 40 years of experience. Grits are one of my favorite foods.

These coarse grits take a minimum of 90 minutes to cook and two hours is better. But, you don't have to stand at the stove and stir all day. Here are two grits tips that will help you a lot; just don't tell your grandmother or she will have a fit, because it's surely not the way she did it.

First you're going to preheat your oven to 250F. That's right folks, the oven. And, you're going to find a very heavy ovenproof pan with a tight fitting lid. I use my large cast iron Le Creuset oval cocotte.

Next you're not going to sprinkle your grits slowly into boiling water following the conventional wisdom. You are going to put your grits and an equivalent volume of cold water into the pan and you're going to stir to form a lumpless slurry, adding a little more water if necessary. See how easy that is? Then you're going to add two more volumes of water and one of heavy cream to the pan and put it on the stove on a high flame.

Then while stirring often enough to keep the grits off the bottom of the pan, you're going to let the grits come to almost a boil and thicken, which usually happens just about the same time. At this point, add a bit of salt, cover and place in the oven. Stir every 20-30 minutes. If the grits are too thick, thin with heavy cream. (Who are we kidding? This recipe is about awesome grits, not diet grits!) You don't really want the grits to boil, so adjust the oven temperature accordingly.

Continue cooking in this manner until the grits are done to your liking, then stir in some sweet butter and salt to taste.

To recap, most grits take about four parts liquid to one part solids by volume. For my recipe, I start with one part grits, three parts water, and one part cream. Over the course of the two-hour cooking period, I probably add another part of cream. If you soak the grits overnight (a really good idea, but if you plan ahead like I do, it will never happen), you'll need significantly less liquid, probably only 3 parts in total.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for the tip about Anson Mills. I'll be placing an order through their website in the very near future, what a gem.