There are a lot of moments that define my life with food, and mostly these are times when I taste something so spectacular that it seems to surpass the realm of food. They are like Julia Child’s meal of sole meuniere she had as her first meal in France that opened up an entire new world to her. Only for me these are small discoveries, like heavenly bread that comes to the table or a plate of the most delicious mashed potatoes or some certain gelato. They are moments when I realize that food can indeed go beyond perfection.
One of these moments was in the mountains of North Georgia when I was in high school, on a family vacation. We stopped at a mill where they ground grits and we got a little tour and watched the mill turn and the water spin the water wheel. At some point, perhaps at a restaurant nearby, we tried some of their grits, and they absolutely changed my perspective. How can the stuff that comes in the box that cook in five minutes, and especially the instant kind, even be called by the same name? These grits were thick and full of flavor that you couldn’t even imagine could come from some simple ground corn. My parents brought home a little bag of these grits, but they ran out entirely too quickly, and for years since then, whenever I have made my little box of 5-minute grits, I have always thought, “If only we had some stone-ground grits,” because unfortunately, they are not something you generally find in the store.
But this past November, my mother and I were at a Christmas market, and lo and behold, there was someone from Tennessee selling bags of stone-ground grits and passing out hot samples. So now I have a pretty decent size bag in my pantry, and I plan to make it last as long as possible.
And as if stone-ground grits in and of themselves aren’t good enough, I turned them into creamy grits the other day with butter and, well, cream. And even though I used grits of the stone-ground variety, I’ve also done this with my 5-minutes grits before, so I’d say that any type will work. And the dairy transforms them from something that was just delicious, so something that is smooth and dreamy and addictive. I just stood at the stove tasting tiny spoonful after tiny spoonful, pretending that I wanted to make sure they were turning out right. But really I think these would be hard to mess up, so I’ll be honest and tell you there wasn’t a reason for that. I just wanted to eat them.
adapted from The All-New Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20-40 minutes (varies according to type of grits)
Serves about 6
2 cups milk
2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup grits, uncooked*
1 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon pepper
1. In a medium sized saucepan, combine milk, water, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir in grits. Reduce heat to medium-low, and cook grits according to package directions (usually about 30 minutes) until thickened. Stir occasionally.
2. Stir in whipping cream, butter, and pepper. Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, about 5 more minutes, until butter is melted and grits are creamy. Serve warm.
*I used stone-ground grits, but I’ve also used this technique (cooking with milk and stirring in cream) with 5-minute grits. With either type, it takes the grits to a whole new level.