If you’ve spent any time at all in a southern kitchen you know that grits are a workhorse. You can easily transform them with just about anything from the fridge or pantry. But just how to cook grits (or polenta) to guarantee success is not as obvious as you might think.
Of course, if you’re Italian the rules for how to cook grits apply equally well to polenta. In my view grits and polenta are interchangeable. Stir whatever you’ve got on hand into a pot of grits (or polenta) and you have an instant meal (or a hefty side dish). Creamy. Cheesy. Salty. Sweet. Grits (or polenta) can pull off a variety of tastes and textures. Made on the stove top or baked in the oven, they never disappoint. So today I have a few tips, followed by a recipe for Grilled Corn Grits (or Polenta) with Blackened Chilies and Fontina Cheese.
How to Cook Grits (or Polenta)
Read the label. Don’t buy anything labeled as “instant” or “quick-cooking” this means the flavor has been pre-cooked right out of it. “Stone-ground” is the phrase you are looking for whether you are buying grits (or polenta). These tend to be whole grain and hold their ‘tooth’ much better.
White or yellow? I say either. When it comes to grits white corn was the historically popular choice in the urban areas of the southern United States. While yellow corn was preferred in the rural areas. When it comes to polenta you’ll probably only find yellow.
Salt your water. You do it for pasta. I know you do. It’s the same for grits (or polenta). Once cooked these foods won’t absorb more salt. So make sure to salt your water to season the grits (or polenta) before you start cooking.
Whisk it. Whisk it good. Stirring won’t do. Grits (or polenta) require almost constant whisking. The fierce action of whisking helps avoid clumps. More importantly, it releases the starches– making the creamiest grits (or polenta) you can imagine.
Yes to cheese (and more cheese). Enough said.
No to cream. Grits absorb water, broth, and milk much better than cream. I don’t know why, but it’s true. It’s taken me many years to believe it, but it’s true. If you feel the need to enrich the grits after cooking try butter.
Add texture. Creamy grits (or polenta) make a great base and are delicious all on their own. But something special happens when a bit of crunch, bite, and chew are added. The following example of Grilled Corn Grits with Roasted Chilies and Fontina Cheese adds all kind of crunch, bite, and chew (and flavor) to the grits (or polenta).
So. Now you know how to cook grits (or polenta). GREG