How to Cook Grits with Grilled Corn, Roasted Chilies and Fontina

Grilled Corn Grits

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 stovetop 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 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 kinds of crunch, bite, and chew (and flavor) to the grits (or polenta).

So. Now you know how to cook grits (or polenta). GREG

How to cook grits (or polenta)

Grilled Corn Grits with Blackened Chilies and Fontina Cheese 

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grilled corn grits with blackened chilies and fontina cheese


  • 2 ears corn
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 Anaheim chilies
  • 3 slice bacon
  • 4 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup stone ground white grits
  • 8 ounce fontina cheese (grated)
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 2 tablespoon butter
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper (as needed for seasoning)
  • 2 tablespoon grated Parmesan
  • ¼ cup cilantro leaves (loosely packed)


Make the grilled corn topping: Prepare the grill for medium indirect heat. Rub olive oil onto the corn to coat thoroughly. Grill, turning often, until the corn is lightly charred all over and just tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from grill and set aside. Allow the corn to cool then cut the kernels off the cobs and set aside in a bowl. The corn can made to this point 1 day in advance. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. 

Char the chilies. Turn on the broiler. Set the chiles on a broiler pan and place them about 1‑inch under the flame. Leave the door open and watch them the entire time they char. Use tongs to turn them often until they are charred evenly all over, about 15 minutes. Move the hot chilies to a paper bag to steam and then cool completely. Use your fingers to run the charred skin off the chilies. Don’t worry if you can’t remove it all. Halve, seed and chop the chilies.

In a medium bowl combine the corn kernels and chopped chilies. Toss to combine. Set aside until ready to assemble.

Cook the bacon: Place bacon slices in a large, unheated heavy-bottomed or cast iron skillet. Turn heat to medium and cook bacon, turning often until crispy. About 8 minutes. Transfer to paper towel-lined plate to drain. Roughly chop and set aside.

Make the grits: Place the oven rack in the center position and preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Bring the chicken stock to a boil in a 4‑qt. saucepan over high heat. Gradually whisk in grits; reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, whisking constantly for about 5 minutes. Continue to cook until tender whisking occasionally, about 10 more minutes. Remove from heat and stir in fontina, milk, butter, and cayenne; season with salt and pepper. While it is still warm and pourable transfer the grits to a shallow 1 or 1 ½ quart baking dish. You may have more grits than you need, so be sure to only fill the dish to about ½‑inch from top.

Scrape the corn and chili mixture on top of the grits, spreading it in and even layer then sprinkle the Parmesan on top. Set the baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet and place in the heated oven. Cooked until hot and bubbly and beginning to brown on top, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven and garnish with prepared chopped bacon and cilantro. Serve hot.