Yes, I was raised in the South. Yes, grits were served at almost every major family breakfast. Yes, they were a favorite food staple of many of my family members. But, I have to be honest with you, I was NOT a fan of grits. Bland, sand-textured mush was not my idea of delicious… no matter how much butter you puddled on top. Occasionally I would find a bowl of the more gourmet “cheese grits” bearable. But given the chance, I would pass on the gruel and opt for another side dish. That is until I had them in a French restaurant.
A few years ago, my husband and I were traveling and decided to enjoy a special brunch at a restaurant I had heard rave reviews on. As usual, I was very excited at the prospect of a delicious meal prepared by someone else. As the waiter took my order for some main dish that at the time seemed incredibly impressive, I was horribly disappointed to find out that the required side dish was… grits. As I pandered over the order and considered ordering a totally different entree (they were not at all flexible about the side options), the waiter enthusiastically gushed about how amazing the grits were. He ended up guaranteeing me that I would love them…or he would bring me another dish. How could I balk at such confidence? I had nothing to lose. When my order later arrived, I cannot even remember what it was. All else paled in comparison to the grits! They were absolutely AMAZING. Before leaving the restaurant, I had already begged my waiter for the recipe and tried to sneak into the kitchen.
Though they did not provide the recipe, the waiter was gracious enough to share a few key ingredients. I ended up creating a similar recipe at home and with several experiments developed it further. Now this recipe has served me well, even when I’ve made breakfast for Northern friends who were vehemently against the thought of “grits”. By cooking everything overnight in your slow-cooker, you will further enhance the texture of this dish, from “grainy” and “gritty” to more creamy and fluffy. They are simply delicious.
with Shrimp and Cheese
½ cup minced sweet onion
1 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup stone ground grits
½ tsp Old Bay seasoning
3 shakes hot sauce
Fresh ground pepper to taste
4 oz cream cheese, cubed
1/2 cup sharp cheddar or smoked Gouda, grated
1 pound fresh shrimp, cleaned and chopped
1 small (4 oz) can diced green chilis
Garnish: fresh chopped green onion, more grated cheese, and cooked crumbled bacon
Spray inside of slow cooker with non-stick cooking spray. Add onion, garlic, broth, Old Bay, and grits. Set on “low” temperature and allow to cook overnight. In the morning, 1 hour before serving, turn to medium and stir in remaining ingredients. Make certain shrimp are cooked through before serving. If desired, you can omit or add other seasonings (i.e. different cheeses, ham, diced tomato, etc.), and if you prefer a meatless option, you can substitute vegetable broth instead of chicken. This is a great breakfast to prepare for guests. Allow them to dish out and top their own bowls to their liking.
Heat oil in large saucepan with tight fitting lid. Sauté onion (with the lid off) over medium heat until onions are translucent. Add garlic and stir for a few seconds. Add broth, bring to boil. Whisk in grits, Old Bay, hot sauce, and pepper. Put lid on, lower heat to simmer and allow to cook for about 45 minutes, whisking occasionally. After 45 minutes, add the remaining ingredients, and stir together until cheese melts, mixture is smooth, and shrimp are cooked. Serve topped with onion, cheese, and bacon. Recipe can also be made overnight in a slow cooker on the low setting.