As I continue to knock through my Southern Kitchen Bucket List, I must admit I was equal parts thrilled and scared to death over tackling this one ... GRITS.
I love grits when they are done right. And like many of the "basics" on my bucket list there is such a vast difference between good and bad executions. They're either a sticky mess of a blob OR they are the creamiest, dreamiest grits you've ever had. I truly believe cheese grits were (thankfully) invented in the first place for those who weren't able to master grits.
My husband (thinks he) doesn't like grits so it's not a dish I generally cook in my own home, but something I'm looking to change after making this recipe. To truly master this staple, I teamed up with James Beard Foundation Award winning chef Virginia Willis. She shared one of her favorite basic recipes for "4C Grits" from her Short Stack Edition cookbook, "Grits" and many of her top secret tips with me in the kitchen, and I have them here for you. In fact, the first time I met Virginia she was doing a demo cooking grits at Williams-Sonoma. So I truly couldn't think of anyone more perfect to learn from than her.
- 2 ears fresh sweet corn, kernels scraped and reserved and cobs cut in half
- 1 tablespoon unrefined corn oil
- 1 sweet onion, grated
- 1 cup 2-percent milk
- 1 cup stone-ground yellow grits
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, or to taste
- Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
How to cook 4-C Grits
- Make the corn stock: In a saucepan, combine the corncobs and 3 cups of water and bring to a boil over medium heat. Decrease the heat to low and simmer until the corn stock has taken on a light corn flavor, about 10 minutes. Remove the cobs, strain the stock into a bowl, and set aside.
- Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until transparent, about 2 minutes. Add the reserved corn kernels and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes.
- Increase the heat of the onions and corn to medium high; add the milk and the corn stock. Bring the mixture to a boil and whisk in the grits. Season with 1 teaspoon of coarse salt and pepper to taste. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring often, until tender and creamy, 45 to 60 minutes. Add the butter and taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.
The “four c’s” in the name refer to the four layers of corn that form this dish. Unrefined corn oil, fresh corn, corn stock, and lastly, ground corn (grits) take this from a straightforward bowl of country grits to elegant simplicity. This recipe is best in summer when corn is in season. For breakfast, crown these golden grits with a farm fresh egg and to “lift” this bowl to lunch or dinner status, stir in other summer ingredients such as chopped heirloom tomatoes and basil, tender poached shrimp, or even buttery chunks of steamed lobster.
HEIRLOOMED TIPS : (courtesy of chef Virginia Willis)
Whisk your grits so "grit rocks" don't form
Only use whole grain grits
Use local grits when possible
Stick to a 1 cup grits / 4 cups liquid ratio (she generally does 2 cups milk / 2 cups water)
Don't pound your grits with heavy cream or cheese to let the flavor of the corn be the hero
[ WATCH OUR VIDEO CLIP ON GRITS ]