I did not grow up in a grit-eating family. I’d beg and beg my mother to make grits, but she’d always say, “We don’t eat grits in this family. Now go eat your porridge.” OK, I lie…I didn’t grow up eating porridge or even curds and whey, another mysterious food found only in nursery rhymes.
But back to the grits: I was obsessed. And so when we took a family vacation to New Orleans to see the King Tut exhibit back in the 70s, I was in heaven. Every menu had grits and I finally could eat this forbidden food with the fantastic name. (Just say the word to yourself, “Grits, grits, grits.” You can’t help but fall into a twang.)
And what did I discover in New Orleans? Grits are gooooooood. They’re creamy with just a hint of texture to keep it interesting. And they’re a marvelous vehicle for butter. I was hooked.
It’s no surprise to me that grits are in vogue. I’m just wondering what took so long. Last week the New York Post had an article listing restaurants in New York City where they can be found. The Dallas Morning News also had a feature on grits, outlining how you can have an interactive grits bar at your next event.
It’s a brilliant idea as grits go well with so many foods—everything from smoked salmon to shrimp, with artisanal cheeses, bean dip, and bruschetta thrown in for good measure. And with such a wide variety of options, a grits bar is sure to please everyone. I wish I’d thought of it!
So even though I was a late convert, I’ve made up for lost time by making grits often and sharing their deliciousness with my New Yorker friends. Call me a grits evangelist.
There are countless approaches to serving grits, but here’s a recipe for my favorite way: with cheddar cheese and jalapenos. The cheese adds a certain creamy sharpness to the grits with the jalapenos providing a perfect kick. And you can serve them at any meal, as they go equally well with eggs as with chicken, fish, pork, beans or savory greens.
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Jalapeño cheese grits
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 jalapeños, seeded and diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups whole milk
- 2 cups water
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1 cup uncooked yellow grits
- 2 cups (8 ounces) grated Colby-Jack cheese
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter on medium-low and add the a jalapeños. While stirring occasionally, cook until softened and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 more seconds. Remove the jalapeños and garlic from the pot.
Pour into the pot the milk and water, add the salt, then turn the heat to high. When the liquid comes to a boil, turn the heat down to low, add the grits, and stir until thick and creamy, about 5-8 minutes.
After the grits are done, stir in the cheese, jalapeños, garlic, and stir until the cheese has melted. Taste and add more salt if needed.
This post was revised and updated in January 2019.