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KitchenWise: cheesy baked grits a deeply satisfying staple

 

Cheesy baked grits are pictured.

Cheesy baked grits are pictured. Photo by: Sara Moulton via AP

 

Sara Moulton/The Associated Press

 

 

A kind of carbo-licious porridge made from dried and coarsely ground corn, grits are to Southern cuisine what potatoes are to Northern cuisine -- a deeply satisfying staple. Like squash, tomatoes and deep-pit barbecuing, grits came to define Southern cooking via the cuisines of such southeast American Indian tribes as the Caddo, Choctaw and Seminole. 

 

These days we're starting to see grits all over the country. Often they'll show up at breakfast seasoned with salt and pepper, topped with a pat of butter and nestled alongside some bacon and eggs. They're also a signature element in Shrimp and Grits, one of the succulent delights of the cuisine of coastal South Carolina and Georgia, which has also migrated widely. 

 

But wonderful as they are, grits can be a chore -- if not slightly dangerous -- to make. I'm speaking of regular old-fashioned stone-ground grits, which trump "quick grits" and "instant grits" in both flavor and texture. Made the usual way, old-fashioned grits need to be stirred relentlessly to avoid clumping. You also have to handle with care; this hot mush has a tendency to bubble up and burn the cook. 

 

Here's a way to avoid those problems: Make it in the oven instead of on the stovetop. You simply combine the grits and the liquid in a ceramic pie dish (a total of 10 minutes hands-on time) and pop it into the oven for 45 to 50 minutes. Then stir in the flavorings -- sharp cheddar cheese, in this case -- and it's done. How easy is that? 

 

One note, though. The ceramic pie plate (or any shallow ceramic baking dish with the same capacity) is key. Pie plates made of metal or glass do not conduct heat as effectively. 

 

 

 

CHEESY BAKED GRITS 

 

Start to finish: 1 hour, 5 minutes (10 active) 

 

Servings: 4 to 6 

 

 

 

2 1/2 cups water combined with either 2 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken broth or 5 cups water 

 

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into pieces 

 

1 cup grits (not quick-cooking) 

 

1 teaspoon kosher salt 

 

4 ounces grated sharp cheddar 

 

Freshly ground black pepper to taste 

 

 

 

  • Preheat oven to 350 F. Stir together water, butter, grits and salt (if using salted vegetable or chicken stock, do not add salt) in a 1-quart ceramic pie plate set on a rimmed sheet pan. Bake on middle shelf of oven, uncovered, for 50 minutes. Remove from oven and preheat broiler.  

     

  • Stir in three-quarters of the cheese, stirring until melted. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper if needed. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top and put grits on a shelf in the upper third of oven, under the broiler until nicely browned. Serve right away. 

     

    Nutrition information per serving: 196 calories; 114 calories from fat; 13 g fat (7 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 37 mg cholesterol; 708 mg sodium; 11 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 0 g sugar; 9 g protein.

     

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