I’m thankful in many ways that, the older we all get, our tastes change. I’ve come to appreciate so many great and interesting foods that – when I was a kid – I would immediately turn my nose up at or, having tried the ‘offensive’ food, dismissed it as disgusting with one little bite. I think to children, certain foods come with an unfortunate kind of stigma attached to them – like broccoli or cabbage. Surprisingly, I’m a more picky eater now as an adult, but I have added a few foods to my eating repertoire which, as a kid, I wasn’t especially fond of.
When I was younger, my mother always seemed to be the somewhat adventurous eater in the family. She thinks chicken livers are amazing. She and my grandparents would have special dinner nights together where they bonded over liver and onions. She was a great cook and had dinner on the table every night for us, for which I am extremely grateful – except for those nights we had baked spaghetti (trust me, it’s not as good as it sounds), chewy cube steaks (don’t ask), tuna noodle casserole with potato chips scattered across the top (how 1960’s-70’s of her), or creamed chipped beef on toast (Depression-era food, anyone?). Yikes. Pretty much anything considered somewhat or distinctly gross – my mom had tried it and probably liked it. My older sisters and I would wrinkle our noses and utter a sharp “ewww!” whenever my family would go to a diner-style restaurant and my mom would order GRITS.
Which brings me to this week’s Baked Sunday Mornings recipe – and a savory one here on Neufangled Desserts: the Baked Cheese Grits from Baked Explorations. Frankly, while I never enjoyed grits as a child, I did like farina – better known as cream-of-wheat – and when I finally tried grits, I really didn’t find them half bad. They basically seem like a (forgive me) grittier version of cream-of-wheat; there’s a tiny bit more chew to them, but they still maintain a luscious creaminess if cooked properly. Grits are especially delicious served as a piping hot, creamy bed to some tasty shrimp at a Cajun-themed restaurant (you really can’t beat shrimp and grits). We have a restaurant here in Milwaukee where the shrimp and grits are truly a MUST-ORDER (shout out to Maxie’s Southern Comfort! Check them out: http://maxies.com/milwaukee/index.html).
There isn’t too much to making grits. Make sure that you buy stone-ground grits – I used the white corn grits from Trader Joe’s. Those icky, instant/quick-cook kind from Quaker are not the ones you want for this recipe. Combine the grits with some water and milk in a saucepan, gently heating it to a boil, then simmer – and most importantly, stirring it constantly so the grits do not cook to the bottom of the pan – until they’re nice and thick, but not dry-thick.
Now here’s the tasty, fun part: Baked amps these grits up with the addition of shredded Monterey Jack and extra sharp Cheddar cheeses, first stirred in, then sprinkled on top and broiled under the broiler of your oven. Voila! Bubbly, cheesy goodness. They’re wonderful and quite filling on their own, or you can serve them with your favorite protein (a fellow Baked Sunday Mornings blogger, who has become a good friend of mine thanks to Facebook, mentioned that she served her grits with sausage and biscuits. Sounds great!).
I’m a huge fan of comfort foods like macaroni and cheese, really well-made mashed potatoes, or a baked potato…and I think I would have to now toss these grits into this fond company. This recipe is perfect for a windy, snowy night, as the entire process of standing by the stove and stirring the grits is calming and therapeutic. Burrow down with a blanket and a helping of these for the night, in front of the TV – and you’re set. I loved the typical juxtaposition of chewy and creamy with these grits, with the sharp flavors of the cheese coming through in each bite. If you’re like me, you’ll really let that cheese on top brown to a nice, almost crispy golden hue, so that when you scoop into the grits, it’s almost as satisfying as breaking the crunchy, caramelized layer on top of a creme brûlée. And – I’m pretty sure my mother would LOVE these grits. Maybe not as much as those chicken livers…
If you’re of the persuasion that grits are just plain ewwwww, I suggest you be adventurous and give these a try: http://bakedsundaymornings.com/2012/11/12/in-the-oven-baked-cheese-grits. You can always pile on more cheese if you need to… and who doesn’t like cheese? Wait…maybe I should rephrase that… limburger cheese? Ewwww. Goat cheese? Waxy and gross!…(Haha!)