Note: This entire post should be read with a drawl because that's how it sounds in my head. Now you can proceed...
On Monday, I promised you something delicious inspired by my weekend in South Carolina. There was one menu item that came up over and over while I was in the sunny south: cheese grits. But before the recipe, a bit of background about my experience with grits.
Growing up, my family would take an annual road trip to Hilton Head, SC. Mom and Dad would pile us into the minivan with pillows and sticker books, and Dad would shout, "Wagons, ho!" as we pulled out of the driveway. We played I Spy, listened to casette tapes of our favorite children's stories, and biffed each other in the back seat ("I'll turn this car around if you kids don't cut that out!") When my poor parents just couldn't take it any more, Dad would steer the minivan to the closest Cracker Barrel, where he was ensured five minutes peace as the kids explored the gift shop.
Once seated at our wooden booth, I would pour over the southern delicacies listed in the vast Cracker Barrel menu. One of my favorite orders? Grits. "With brown sugar, please." I would smile at the waitress.
The waitress, however, would not smile back. It was a look of horror, confusion, and disgust that I received in return. At 10 years old I didn't appreciate the southern love affair with cheese grits. But after my latest trip, I'm converted.
Cheesy grits are good.
Baked Cheesy Grits
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup water
Salt and pepper
1 cup regular grits (not quick-cooking)
12 ounces shredded cheddar cheese, divided (about 1.5 cups)
1/4 cup milk
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 2-quart baking dish.
Bring the broth, water, and a pinch of salt and pepper to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir in the grits and whisk until completely combined. Reduce heat to low, and simmer until the grits are thick, about 8 minutes. (If the grits are starting to look dry, but aren't creamy enough, try adding a few more tablespoons of water and allowing it to cook for another minute.) Stir in about 3/4 of the shredded cheese and the milk.
Season to taste with salt and pepper. Gradually stir in the eggs and butter until combined.
Pour the mixture into the baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.
Bake for about 35 minutes, until the grits are set. Serve warm.