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In the Kitchen With Ricky Webster: Morning Breakfast Grits a perfect way to celebrate cornmeal

By Ricky Webster For The Spokesman-Review

National Grits For Breakfast Day is Sept. 2, so for this week’s recipe, I’m making sure that you are set so you and yours can celebrate this national day right!

Traditionally grits are a porridge made from boiled cornmeal. They are usually served one of two ways: creamy or cheesy, and the latter is the method and recipe I am going to celebrate today. The key to making grits, whether cheesy or creamy, is to cook them low and slow, over a slight simmer, while stirring constantly so there are no lumps, and they are extra creamy.

Shrimp and grits is the version most poeple have heard of or even sampled – I know you can get a local twist on this at Vieux Carre NOLA Kitchen – but there are so many other preparations and recipes out there. When I’ve spent time in New Orleans, I always find it fascinating that grits are such a common breakfast item. I’ll order them for breakfast much of my trip. There’s something about the rich heartiness that just makes sense in the morning. It’s like a savory and more flavorful oatmeal (although I have had them with butter and maple syrup and those are equally delicious).

It’s a humble dish that expands so many cultures. A similar dish, polenta has been served in Italy since Roman times, while in part of Africa it became a staple food after maize was introduced in the 16th and 17th centuries. Here in the United States, English colonists learned to cook grits from Indian tribes.

The preparation below is simple, and the most time-consuming part is the vigorous and consistent stirring that needs to happen during the 20 minutes on the stove. I think that time, and energy put into the pot of grits equates to love when it hits your tongue. As cheesy as that sounds (pun intended), I think there is some truth about food tasting better with the more time and care out into it, and if you think about it that’s why southern food is so comforting.

I hope this recipe finds its way into your morning repertoire. Just as that favorite pancake or waffle may be ritualistic for a weekend breakfast, maybe cheesy grits will become a favorite of yours.

Cheesy Grits

1 cup milk

1 cup water

1 bay leaf, optional

Freshly cracked ground pepper

½ cup coarse ground cornmeal

1 green onion, white and green parts sliced thinly

½ cup cheddar cheese

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Salt and pepper, to taste

Bring milk, water, bay leaf and black pepper (a generous amount in my opinion) to a boil over medium-high heat.

Stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, gradually add cornmeal.

Turn heat down to a simmer and cook, stirring often until creamy.

After about 10 minutes of cooking, add in sliced green onion and continue to cook for another 10 minutes.

After grits have cooked down and thickened (all in all it should take about 20 minutes), stir in butter and remove bay leaf.

Remove from heat and stir in cheese and salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with fried eggs and bacon for a traditional Southern breakfast.

I decided to top mine with a fried egg, sliced jalapeño, some more sliced fresh green onion, and blistered cherry tomatoes from the backyard garden.

Yield: 3 to 4 servings

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