Tuesday, January 4, 2011

happy new year!

I am a big believer in eating black-eyed peas and greens on New Year's Day for good luck in the year to come. I believe in the power of these prosperity-bringers so much that I'm pretty sure they will work their magic just as well if I finally get around to cooking them for dinner on Jan. 3 (and leftovers today). It's a good thing I didn't resolve to stop procrastinating.

So I made kale according to a fast 101 Cookbooks recipe for Garlicky Greens and opened a can of 365 brand black-eyed peas because I'm going to say that passes for following the tradition/superstition of counting and eating precisely 365 peas for good luck each day of the year.

Something with corn feels like just the right match for this Southern combo, so I usually eat it with cornbread. But then! Last week I tried some cheesy grits from the prepared food bar at Whole Foods. (I should say, I like eating there but I'm not crazy about the idea of paying for my lunch by the pound. If cost didn't have me considering the actual weight of my food, I'd definitely be adding more to my plate. I'm not sure this is a lesson I want you to teach me, Whole Foods.) Anyway, the cheese grits were super creamy and tasted of corn more than any other grits I've had. So why not make them at home, where I don't weigh my food or myself?

I assumed Homesick Texan would have a simple grits recipe, and it didn't fail me. But it's really a bit too simple because I wasn't sure what I should look for to know when grits are done. So I combined the elements for extra flavor from that recipe with instruction on basic preparation from a Lee Bros. recipe. And, ta-da! Here's how I make grits...

Cheesy, spicy grits

A combination of recipes from Homesick Texan and The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook

1 1/2 cups stone-ground grits

1 1/2 cups whole milk

3 cups water

2 pinches kosher salt, plus more to taste

1 jalapeño, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 1/2 cups of white Cheddar cheese, grated

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Stir the grits into a bowl of cold water and allow to settle. If you see any corn hulls that float to the surface, skim off the hulls and drain the grits. (I had no hulls.)

In a medium saucepan, bring the milk and the 3 cups of water to a boil over high heat. Add the grits and stir. Reduce the heat to medium, add the salt and cook, stirring occasionally.

Once the grits thicken in about 10 minutes, reduce the heat and continue cooking, stirring frequently and adding water if the grits become too stiff. Cook until the grits are fluffy and creamy, about 35 to 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, sauté the jalapeño and garlic in butter until soft. Once the grits are done, stir in the cheese, jalapenos, garlic, salt and pepper and stir until cheese is melted.

* I haven't tried this yet, but someone named Jim on Chowhound recommends slicing cold leftover grits and frying them in butter. I'll follow up if I do some frying.

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