Sunday, July 09, 2006

Kiss My Grits!

We haven't had an extraordinarily warm summer thus far. In fact, it's been comparatively cool!

But mere weather won't stop me from hauling out some of my favorite foods from my five years Down South: mint-infused sweet iced tea, cheese grits, and fresh biscuits.

And on a sunny Sunday morning, what better way to enjoy all that than to invite the lovely Phoenix and Mr. Nice Guy over for brunch?

Since I had just picked up locally milled grits at the farmers' market yesterday, I was just itching to use them. I stocked the refrigerator with three kinds of iced tea (an herbal blackberry and an Earl Grey with lavender as well as the mint) yesterday evening, and I saved the rest of the prep for this morning.

The cheese grits had a slightly different twist this time: instead of using shredded cheddar cheese, I used cubes of dill-laced Havarti and a sprinkling of fresh dill from my garden, then added an egg and spooned the grits into a pan and baked them for an hour.

While they baked, I whipped up a half batch of whole wheat biscuits and baked them once I took out the grits. And by the time my guests had arrived, the table was set and the food was steaming.

What can I say but, "That's good eating!"

Havarti-Dill Grits

Once exposed to cheese grits in my years Down South, I was hooked. But I never considered variations on the theme until I stumbled across a couple of recipes in Morning Glories, a book of delightful recipes using a wide variety of herbs. One recipe suggested using smoked cheddar along with fresh chives, and this version offers a subtler combination of mild Havarti cheese (very buttery in itself) with fresh dill. I've adapted the combination to the standard grits recipe a Southern friend gave me years ago. I have a strong preference for yellow corn grits, though what's found around most Northern grocery stores is the boring instant or quick white version. Use what you will, but I think I'll be buying more of the yellow grits at the farmers' market.

2 1/2 c water
1 c quick-cooking grits (5 minute, not instant)
dash of salt
4 to 6 oz Havarti cheese, diced
1 T minced dill leaves (less if there’s dill in the cheese)
4 T unsalted butter
1 egg, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 2 to 2 1/2 quart baking dish. Bring water to a boil in small saucepan.

Put grits in a large saucepan; slowly pour in boiling water, whisking constantly. Bring to a boil, whisking, over medium-high heat. Stir in salt, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes, whisking constantly until thickened.

Remove grits from heat; stir in cheese, dill, and butter until melted. Whisk a little of the grits mixture into the beaten eggs to warm them, then slowly pour egg mixture into the grits, whisking constantly. Pour into prepared baking dish.

Bake grits, uncovered, for 50 to 60 minutes or until just set. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. (If not serving immediately, cover and chill. Reheat in microwave or 325-degree oven.)

Serves 4 to 8 (depending on how hungry they are and how many biscuits you've made)


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