After coming back from a week in California, I thought I’d have some super healthy recipes to share, what with all the bright, shiny, happy, fit, smiley Californians bebopping around on their bikes and rollerblades.
But alas, I do not. Back in New York, there’s nothing but people scurrying down the icy sidewalks wearing their human sleeping bags (i.e. the puffy coat). Just looking out the window makes me want to hibernate for the remainder of winter. And hibernation means filling the belly with comfort food. The good stuff. The kind of food that makes you feel nurtured, cozy and happy to be home.
As a kid, my mom used to fix me a little bowl of pastina, these tiny star shaped pasta noodles. She’d cook them and stir in some salt and a small pat of butter. That’s it. Nothing made me more content then this simple dish.
Years later, I visited the South and a friend encouraged me to order a side of grits with my bacon and eggs. One spoonful of this creamy mixture took me right back to my high chair. Somewhat like a creamy polenta, grits are also made from corn, but maintain their own unique qualities and textures. And when I say they, I mean they. You can buy instant grits, five-minute grits, stone ground grits, yellow grits or white grits, all with their own cooking times. We Yankees don’t get as much variety or as high quality grits in our local supermarkets as southerners do, but that’s where the Internet comes in.
My friend Jennifer’s Dad, a true southerner from Baton Rouge, Louisiana once made me his five-minute grits, finishing them off with white American cheese and salt. I promptly helped myself to four consecutive bowls. While he swore by the five-minute versus the stone-ground variety and the American cheese for that extra creamy texture, I’ve found over the years, that switching to cheddar and the longer cooking stone ground grits had a more substance. So here’s my version of this classic southern comfort food, appropriate at any point of the day. Have them with shrimp, steak or perhaps some fried chicken for dinner. Have them with your morning eggs, or just eat a plain bowl, all on its own and believe me, you’ll be walking back to the stove to sneak spoonfuls right out of the pot.
1 cup stone ground white grits
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
½ tsp. salt
4 cups water
2 cups shredded white cheddar, packed
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 ½ tsp. salt
Bring the grits butter, a half teapoon salt and four cups of water to a boil.
Lower to a low simmer, cover and stir frequently until cooked about 25 minutes. Add the cheese, butter and additional 1.5 teaspoons salt and stir well until homogenized. Serve piping hot.