Monday, November 19, 2007

Baked Cheese Grits

Oklahoma Grits and Neese Sausage. Oh yeah.

Grits are, hands down, one of my favorite foods. You might find that odd, but I really think grits are one of the most perfect foods. Think about it: They're low on calories; they're inexpensive; they're quick to cook; they're versatile and can be eaten at any meal; and they're great plain or gussied up. All of this being said it's probably not shocking to know that I eat a lot of grits. Most of the time I eat them somewhat soupy, my favorite way, with salt, pepper, butter and a sprinkling of bacon on top. But sometimes ... sometimes you have to bring out the big guns. That means cheese - lots of cheese.

Oklahoma Cheese Grits

Historians tell us (via strangecosmos) that grits were first introduced to the settlers in the form of hominy - softened maize with some kind of animal fat and salt. Because of their low expense, they helped a lot of families get through the depression. And no, they do not have sugar on them. (Though I keep seeing this on the Internet. Sugar on grits? What gives?) They are, in a sense of the word, the Southern Form of Oatmeal. Speaking of which, I can't eat oatmeal. I've tried. Same goes for Cream of Wheat, but they say (whoever they are) that if you were raised on grits those others just won't please your palate. I'm living proof of such!

No matter what kind of restaurant you visit down here you'll find grits on the menu. I will say that they're mostly a breakfast food in my neck of the woods. You can't eat breakfast without a side of grits. Of course further South, as in Louisiana, you're going to see Shrimp 'n Grits on every menu. That dish, by the way, is one of my favorite things in the world, and I get it almost every time it's on the menu.

Oklahoma Grits

The Oklahoma Cheese Grits I recently made were part of Brad's birthday dinner. If you're making grits for a crowd I think it's better to bake them because then tend to harden fast if they sit out so a pot of hot grits for several guests isn't always the best way to go. Grits easily absorb everything you throw at them so although I used Velveeta in these - I highly recommend you try your favorite cheese: spicy monterey jack, extra-sharp cheddar, you name it it'll work. This dish was the highlight of the meal, and I think everybody took seconds. Go ahead! If you've never had grits, give them a try. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Baked Cheese Grits
Adapted from AllRecipes
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Ingredients:
6 cups water
1.5 cups quick-cooking grits
3/4 cup butter
1 pound processed cheese, cubed
2 teaspoons seasoning salt
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
2 teaspoons salt
3 eggs, beaten

Directions:
1.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13 inch casserole dish.
2. In a medium saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Stir in grits, and reduce heat to low. Cover, and cook 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Mix in the butter, cheese, seasoning salt, Worcestershire sauce, hot pepper sauce, and salt. Cook for 5 minutes more, or until cheese melts. Remove from heat, cool slightly, and fold in the eggs. Pour into casserole dish.
3. Bake for 1 hour or until the top is lightly browned.

* I didn't bake mine for quite 1 hour because they were fully browned on top in about 50 minutes.
*And that first picture? That's a plate of next-day grits with freshly cooked, crumbled sausage on top - one leftover meal I approve of!

Related recipe: Southern Grits Casserole (This one's great for all the guests preparing to swarm your house during the holiday season!)