I’m sneaking back to my Southern roots in honor of Black History Month and bringing you a recipe for Creamy Grits with Spinach and Cheese.
I have to admit that I didn’t like grits growing up. Both my sister and I would just groan when mom put them on the table almost every morning for breakfast. I didn’t even like grits in my early 20s. In fact, I never really develop a taste for them until I visited Italy in 2014 and ate polenta.
Polenta is the Italian version of grits, served creamy or in cakes. Both grits and polenta are made using coarsely ground corn and cooked in milk, water or stock with whatever flavors the cook is trying to achieve. They vary a little in texture and the type of ground corn used. But overall, both are interchangeable with each other although grits tend to be a bit mushy in texture than polenta which stays firmer and more grainy.
I think it was the flavors of meatballs and beautiful red pasta sauce paired with a creamy polenta that changed my mind. After that moment, I’ve eaten polenta or grits plenty of times and enjoy the lovely flavors of the sweet ground corn.
Today, I’m focusing on one of the common ways grits are cooked in the Southern US. Nice creamy grits loaded with aged cheddar cheese and of course, butter. I’ve also added a little spinach to help balance out the dish with the slight bitterness and add a little beautiful green.
I cook my grits the way my mom cooked them. In a mixture of milk and water. The regular suggested cooking method uses only water. But I find the milk/water mixture brings out the sweetness of the corn and makes the grits all that much more creamy.
I also used a good aged cheddar because it reduces the amount of cheese needed without losing a hint of flavor. I’ve also found parmesan, Grana Padano and blue cheese are excellent cheese choices in grits.
Now cooking grits can be a bit of a challenge in the kitchen. It’s not that they are hard to make because they aren’t. It’s that you have to keep a close eye on them so they don’t stick and burn or become lumpy. You also have to keep a lid on the pot or be careful when stirring it because the grits like to pop out of the pot while on the heat. So not only do they make a mess if not covered but you can be easily burned while trying to stir them.
I prefer using stone ground grits (and polenta). They take a little longer cooking time but the flavor is so much better. If you prefer, use the instant grits but adjust the recipe for the time.
So I hope you don’t wait as long as I did to enjoy the yummy goodness of grits. And whether you’re hesitating on trying them or already enjoying grits, I hope you enjoy my recipe for Creamy Grits with Cheese and Spinach.
Please let me know you thoughts on grits and polenta.