Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Nitty Gritty on Grits (How to cook Grits class notes)

 It's Tuesday...and that means either a great tutorial here on the blog or I'm teaching a class...but either way, we're learning something!  

The Nitty Gritty on Grits
By Chef Stephanie Petersen
There are nearly 400 different varieties of corn. From that corn, thousands of corn products are productd.  One of the corn products is called a grit. If you’re not from a Southern state or from a culture that uses corn grits often, there may be some things you don’t know about making grits. Today we’ll be covering the basics on how to cook them and sharing some remarkably good recipes you can use often. Ask any number of Southern cooks and they will each tell you a different way to cook grits. Buying high-quality, stone-ground grits is half the battle.  I use the white most often, as it has a less pronounced corn flavor and my family prefers them. The other half of the battle for amazing grits is patience and stirring. Lumpy grits are usually un-stirred. Cooking the grits slow and low seems to be the best method for getting a good creamy texture.
To cook regular grits:

  • Use a heavy-bottomed saucepan with a tight lid for the best heat distribution and heat retention.
  • Stir constantly when you first put the grits and liquid over heat, until the mixture first begins to thicken. You will need to continue stirring frequently, though not constantly, from that point on.
  • Grits cook best over low heat. Most recipes will have you start them at medium heat and then immediately reduce the heat to low once they begin to thicken. You should see large, soft bubbles on the grits' surface occasionally, but no rolling bubbles. Quick grits can survive slightly higher cooking if you are in a rush, but coarse grits truly need low and slow heat.
  •  Quick grits usually need to cook for about eight to ten minutes over medium heat. I like them most at 15 minutes.
  • Soaking. Many recipes recommend soaking grits the night before you are going to cook them. I do this on the stove in the pan I intend on cooking them in if I decide to go that route. Supports of soaking say that this reduces cooking time and also results in a superior final texture, as the corn will hold its shape better in the pot. I’ve tried them both ways and did notice a difference. The ones that were soaked overnight were indeed better at holding their shape and were a little bit creamier in texture. You will also find the cooking time is reduced to about 6 minutes on the Honeyville grits using the soaking method.

Tess' Food Storage Basic Grits
4 cups water or milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup  white or yellow grits
1 Tbsp butter. 
In a small pot, bring the water, milk powder and salt to a boil. Slowly stir the grits into the boiling mixture. Stir continuously and thoroughly until grits are well mixed. Let the pot return to a boil, cover with a lid, lower the temperature, and cook for approximately 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add more water if necessary. Grits are done when they have the consistency of smooth cream of wheat. Stir in the butter powder and serve.

Tess Sour Cream Cheese Grits
½ cup sour cream
3 1/2  cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup white or yellow grits
1/2 tsp Chef Tess All Purpose Seasoning
½ cup crumbled crispy bacon
1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese
Directions Place the sour cream , water, and salt into a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Once the mixture comes to a boil, gradually add the grits while continually whisking. Once all of the grits have been incorporated, decrease the heat to low and cover. Remove lid and whisk frequently, every 3 to 4 minutes, to prevent grits from sticking or forming lumps; make sure to get into corners of pot when whisking. Cook for 10-15 minutes until mixture is creamy. Remove from the heat, add the seasoning, cheese and bacon and whisk to combine. Serve immediately with additional crumbled bacon bits if desired.

Sweet variations: Omit cheese and bacon from the recipe. Add ½ cup sugar to the recipe along with 1 tsp caramel flavored oil, vanilla, and a dash of Chef Tess Wise Woman of the East spice blend. Add ½ cup fruit to the mixture once it has thickened.  I love it with raspberries, apricots, and blueberries along with some toasted walnuts, hazelnuts or pistachios.

Tess Roasted Corn Grits
Recipe adapted from the Jeff Blake, Zea Rotisserie and Brewery (The Tastebuds)
5 cups water
1T low sodium chicken bouillon powder
½ cup sour cream powder
¼ stick butter
1 cup  corn
1 cup white or yellow grits
Green onions for garnish
1. To grill corn, Lightly toast corn in a dry pan until slightly browned.
3. Bring water, bouillon powder and sour cream to a boil.
4. Slowly whisk in the grits and then the corn.
5. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook 20-25 minutes. Add more water if needed (about 1/2 cup at a time and stir well.)
6. Add cracked black pepper to taste. Garnish with thinly sliced green onions.

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess

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