Garlic Cheese Grits

Last night was the monthly potluck dinner.  We decided on a ‘breakfast for dinner’ theme.  It was a little heavier than the normal potluck:  green chile egg bake; french toast casserole; coffee cake; bacon; garlic cheese grits. and watermelon – had to throw in a little fruit for good measure.  Add some mimosas and evening brunch is served!

I was in charge of the bacon and the grits.  First, a million thanks to the Clark’s at Greenway Beef for introducing me to Crabill’s Bacon.  This is amazing stuff.  At potluck we call it ‘crack bacon.’  It’s salt cured slab bacon.  The slices are thick and meaty.  This is the only bacon on earth that doesn’t make my hands swell up.  God bless folks who make bacon without all the nitrates and preservatives you find in commercial bacon.  So, if you live in the VA Valley or are a farmer’s market regular in Central VA be sure to check it out.

I know I’ve made grits for the blog before, but these deserve a post of their own.  I used Wade’s Mill grits that I got from Relay Foods.  Local, stone ground and fabulous.  I made these with a combination of salted water and milk.  Did you catch that?  Salted water.  Even if you’re adding cheese you have to salt the water.  You can’t recover bland grits after they’re cooked.  No way, no how.  Add some fresh garlic, extra sharp cheddar and a little smoked paprika and you have an amazing dish for any time of day.  Rich, creamy, garlicky, smoky and wonderful.

A few helpful hints.  Using milk isn’t required, but it does add some richness.  If you’re using skim milk use half water and half milk rather than the amounts listed below.  If you’re adding fresh garlic to grits add it to the water at the same time you add the grits.  That way it will cook all the way through the grits and mellow as it cooks.  If you add it at the end you’ll have little bites of garlic that add bitterness to your grits.  Also, shred your cheese from a block.  Pre-shredded cheese has just a little coating on it to keep it from sticking together.  That little coating also makes it harder to get it to melt smoothly.  You’ll end up with little bits of unmelted cheese.  It’ll taste fine, but it won’t look as nice.  Beverysparing with the smoked paprika.  You’re adding it at the end so if you use too much your slightly smoky grits will have a little chalkiness to them.

Grits are showing up in all kinds of high end restaurants these days, taking over for polenta on the “in” list.  You can do just about anything with them – breakfast, lunch or dinner.  Use them in place of rice, potatoes or polenta.  They’re a great way to stretch a dish a little farther.  Make them at home and save yourself a few bucks!

Good? So, so good.
Easy? You bet.
Good for company? These are really garlicky so be sure they’re good friends!
Special shopping? Nope, but if you can get local stone ground grits they’re the best.

Garlic Cheese Grits

Ingredients

3 C water
1 C milk
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 C stone ground grits
3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1-1 1/2 C grated extra sharp cheddar
dash of smoked paprika

Directions

Bring water, milk and salt to a boil in a large sauce pan. Stir in grits and garlic. Stir often as the grits cook until soft, about 20-25 minutes. Add additional water if needed to reach desired consistency. Remove from heat. Add cheese. Stir until fully melted. Stir in paprika. Serve warm.

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