There is quite a controversy about how to cook grits the right way. Down South, they cook it slow but if you follow the directions on the box you can cut that down to five or six minutes. With the exception of Cajun-style grits, most recipes, whether from the box or Southern, call for grits, water and a dash of salt. So, the argument becomes whether you want your grits soft or coarse – or maybe there is a little more to the story.
Years ago, I published a recipe for grits at cominus.com that became a hit. The grits are combined with thyme, oregano and egg to make an interesting and tasty variation to the usual serving from your local sit-down breakfast cafe. There is not much you can improve on that but this article is intended to update the recipe and to give you reasons why some of the ingredients are in there. Let’s begin with a list of ingredients:
WATER AND GRITS
The liquid portion should be four times the grits portion. A double serving would typically have two cups liquid with one-half cup grits. Now, you are wondering why I wrote the last two sentences the way I did and now have two questions: First) why “liquid portion” instead of just writing “water”? and Second) why specify a double serving instead of describing a single serving? after all, someone might want to cook up three single servings, right?
The liquid portion is composed of water and milk. The milk is usually one-fourth to one-third the total liquid portion. So, if you are cooking up a double serving, which calls for two cups liquid, one-half to two-third cup will be milk. How much milk you use depends upon your taste. I use the one-third milk rule because I like my grits creamy.
There is a very important reason we only cook grits in double servings: Real men do not eat single servings – and if you are cooking up some for you and your dog, you better cook at least two double servings. That still might not be enough. I have a twelve pound Dachshund, and he would eat his weight in grits if I let him.
After reading this article, some people might be inspired to cook up a batch of grits. However, they would have a hard time with this recipe unless we put the liquid and the grits into a list. So, for the benefit of those who do not wish to read the narrative every time they prepare to cook this up, here is the list so far:
2 cup liquid (water and milk – milk is 1/4 to 1/3 total)
1/2 cup ground hominy grits
THE REST OF THE INGREDIENTS – FOR ONE DOUBLE SERVING
one dash salt
one or two dash cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp ground oregano leaves
1/4 tsp ground thyme leaves
one egg – sans shell
1/4 stick butter – NO substitutes
Besides the pleasant herbal taste of oregano and thyme leaves, there is a side benefit I stumbled onto years ago. Long story is, it served me right that I had contracted asthma many years ago. In my youth, I would break out into a laugh, usually for no reason, laugh for an eternity and ending the performance as one choking from laughing so hard. I would usually have to quit when someone readied to call a paramedic. As time went by, it was no longer a performance, it became real: I could not laugh at all without choking. So, I learned to enjoy humor without laughing – and most everyone thought I was a sour puss, but I would always assure them I thought their joke was funny.
Thyme and oregano were interesting herbs to me and I soon acquired a taste for them. I put them in everything from scrambled eggs to grits. After a while, I was choking less when laughing. I did not understand the relationship until one day I was reading an article how thyme and oregano are effective at reducing the symptoms for asthma. Now, I can laugh for hours without fear of choking. This is an additional health benefit from these two tasty ingredients.
The cayenne pepper needs no explanation. This is a man’s meal and cayenne is a man’s condiment. Besides, cayenne pepper is good for the prostate.
The egg: crack it into a dish before putting it in the pot so you can catch any stray shell fragments. If you are cooking up multiple double servings, you can reduce the egg to one-half per double serving.
Do not use substitutes for butter; they will not cook right and/or have the taste. If you can’t have butter, just leave it out – sorry. If you find something that does work good, let me know and I will mention it in an update – if I like the taste of it.
SAFETY IN THE KITCHEN
SIDENOTE: it would be wise to add a few safety tips. First) wear eye protection in the kitchen. This may sound hokey – because nobody does it, but the facts are that people sustain eye injuries while working in the kitchen. You don’t want to be a statistic. Today, a bit of grits jumped out of the pot during boil and landed on my arm – a piece less than one-sixteenth of an inch – and it hurt! Landing in the eye would have been terrible. Second) use hot pads when handling hot pans and utensils and save the third-degree burns. Third) if you have a fire in the kitchen NEVER throw water on it. Many people have self-inflicted extensive first and second degree burns by doing so. Always have an ABC fire extinguisher, or class K, available. If not, find some way to smother the fire (without getting your hands into the flame) such as using flour or a stack of towels.
HOW TO COOK YOUR GRITS
You are cooking at least a double serving and you have all the ingredients, listed above, in front of you and ready to go. Grab an appropriate sized sauce pan with a matching lid. You want the sauce pan to be large enough that all the ingredients combined do not fill more than two-thirds the pot.
Place the saucepan on the burner and set the burner to “high.”
Pour the liquid (water and milk) into the pan and bring it to a boil. Stir occasionally.
Just before the liquid boils, place the remainder of the ingredients, with the exception of the grits, into the pot. Stir thoroughly, then let the pot come to a boil.
When the pot is violently boiling, stir the grits in slowly. Don’t dump the grits! Not only is it sacrilege but you are likely to create lumps. Ease the grits out of the cup while stirring the pot. There is no rush, you are going to be here for a while anyway.
Turn the burner down to “Low” – this is the lowest, or second lowest, setting on the cook top. Stir for a minute or two, until the violent boiling calms down a bit.
Cover the pan. Remove the cover to stir occasionally and re-cover the pan. You will cook the grits over low heat for at least forty-five (45) minutes. What you are looking for in the burner setting is the lowest heat possible that will still keep the grits “plopping.” When you open the lid, there should not be a violent, nor a moderate, boil – just a slow “plop, plop.”
If you are in a hurry, you may cut the cooking time on low down to forty (40) minutes. But I do not recommend this. A fine pot of grits takes at least forty-five minutes to cook.
HOW TO EAT YOUR GRITS
Forty-five minutes are completed and you are ready to serve. How do you serve the grits? That, too, is a topic of great controversy. If you are from Minnesota and think salad must always involve some form of gelatin pudding, don’t eat your grits around me! The short answer, nonetheless, is syrup and milk DO NOT belong on grits – bring that up around me if you want to pick a fight. The only real way to serve grits is with butter, and, once again, no substitutes.
Some of you are going to have a cow over butter. After all you ask: we cooked the grits with butter and now we are going to top the grits with butter? Yes, whiney-pants. Butter is good for you. And for those of you who are concerned about high blood pressure; I was reading something in an email the other day where doctors discovered that squeezing tennis balls, or using hand grips, are a good way to exercise your hand – with the side benefit of noticeably bringing down the blood pressure. Emails don’t lie. My hand grips are marked “100 LB” – hold that for sixty seconds – that’s a good workout. So, buck up and be the man. Cook your grits with butter, eat your grits with butter and get yourself a good set of hand grips.