Grits are good for you. I knew that long before I first ate shrimp and grits in Charleston, SC. While the “grits belt” runs from Texas to Virginia, I can only crow about the offerings of two states, both dear to me.
I’m lucky enough to have family living in the low country of coastal South Carolina. While visiting, I’ve learned to love the smell and vista of the salt marshes, large live oaks draped in Spanish moss, shrimp boats lining the docks (think Bubba Gump without the chocolate) at Gay’s Seafood on highway 21, past Beaufort. Ok, I can do with out the fire ants and humidity, but the palmetto state has it going on when it comes to food. Pat Conroy, native son and Fripp Island neighbor to my in-laws, wrote a fantastic cookbook that brilliantly weaves his story telling and culinary finesse. He describes grits “as an empty canvas for all kinds of experimentation” and of course, details his own Shrimp and Grits recipe, recommending the stone ground grits of Anson Mills. Have not tried them yet, but they offer blue corn grits from the Cherokee Nation, “…made from fresh new crop blue corn that have the fragrance and taste of mountain terroir and sweet corn, with intriguing background notes of chestnuts.” Mmm, what a beautiful image and provenance.
But I live in the heart of the old dominion, and here we favor the white stone ground grits of historic Wades Mill in the Shenandoah Valley hamlet of Raphine, “the breadbasket of the South.” When I left northern VA, I gave up the watered down instant grits of my youth (ala late night Tastee 29 diner and HoJos haunts), for the savory, long-cooking grits, be them yellow or white , served in my own kitchen or favorite new dive. Polenta and hominy are close cousins to grits, but remain distant to me, perhaps living a bit too far away, and I haven’t been properly introduced. These days, I experiment with all sorts of cheese grits. We were on a gruyere kick for awhile, after the aged Quebec cheddar phase, but currently favor our local Monastery Gouda, the “semi-soft, mild and mellow Dutch-style Gouda” made by trappist nuns in nearby Crozet made with whole milk from grass-fed cows. I love to top my cheese grits with sauteed cremini mushrooms and sweet onions, dash of tobasco to top it off.
Cheesey Gouda Grits
1 cup Wade’s Mill stone ground grits mixed with 1 ½ cups cold water
1 ½ cups salted boiling water
4 T Butter
3/4 cup Monastery Gouda
1 Cup Lewes Dairy cream
Slowly add grits and cold water to boiling water, stirring.
Cook, stirring every three or four minutes for 20 minutes.
Beat in 4 T butter and 3/4 cup chopped cheese and 1 cup heavy cream.
Season lightly with pepper and garlic salt. Serve hot.