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Monday, January 31, 2011

Grits & Glitz

contributed by Valerie Battle Kienzle

I was born and raised in the south, where grits appeared regularly on our table. Grits are inexpensive, easy to prepare and versatile. Not only that, they're a corn product, so they're good for you. What's not to love about this southern staple?

In recent months, grits have been a popular topic in the food world. Much has been said and written about this old comfort food.

In New York, trendy restaurants such as Jane, Greenwich Village's The Pink Tea Cup, Lower Manhattan's Peels, and Brooklyn's Seersucker are serving grits for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Paired with everything from goat cheese and shellfish to mushrooms, hot peppers and catfish, it seems that grits have become the city's new "it" cuisine. One writer described grits as "sophisticated comfort food." Southern Cuisine expert and cookbook author Nathalie Dupree even published a book last year titled, Nathalie Dupree's Shrimp & Grits Cookbook.

Who knew the simple food of common folk would become so trendy?

The origin of grits in the United States can be traced to Native Americans hundreds of years ago. Early settlers reported being served prepared corn products by the inhabitants they found in this country. The Native Americans then taught them to grind and prepare corn so it could be eaten year-round.

Grits are traditionally thought of as a southern food. Linda Stradley's website, What's Cooking America ( says the State of South Carolina went so far as to proclaim grits "the official state food" in 1976:

"Whereas, throughout its history, the South has relished its grits, making them a symbol of its diet, its customs, its humor, and its hospitality, and whereas, every community in the State of South Carolina used to be the site of a grist mill and every local economy in the State used to be dependent on its product; and whereas, grits has been a part of the life of every South Carolinian of whatever race, background, gender, and income; and whereas, grits could very well play a vital role in the future of not only this State, but also the world, if as, The Charleston News and Courier proclaimed in 1952: 'An inexpensive, simple, and thoroughly digestible food, (grits) should be made popular throughout the world. Given enough of it, the inhabitants of planet Earth would have nothing to fight about. A man full of (grits) is a man of peace.' "

So whether they're served with milk and butter, or shrimp, goat cheese and vegetables, grits are a versatile and satisfying food. Following is my favorite grits recipe. It can be served as a side dish, but I enjoy it as a main dish:

Hot Tomato Grits

2 bacon slices, chopped
2 (14 1/2-oz.) cans chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup Quaker Quick-Cooking Grits
1 (10-oz.) can Ro-Tel Original Diced Tomatoes & Green Chilis
1 cup (4 ounces) grated Colby or Cheddar cheese
Optional garnishes: additional cooked, chopped bacon, grated cheese, finely-chopped tomato

Cook the bacon in a saucepan until crisp. Save the drippings in the pan. Gradually add the chicken broth and salt. Bring to a boil.
Stir in the grits and tomatoes & chilis. Return to a boil; stir. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring often, for 15-20 minutes.
Stir in the cheese. Cover the pan and let stand for 5 minutes or until the cheese melts. Serve with garnishes, if desired.
Yield: 6 side-dish servings
(To reduce calories and fat, drain the bacon and discard the drippings. Use reduced-fat cheese.)


  1. I love grits. I eat them every chance I get and I can't wait to try the recipe. Thanks, ladies.

  2. My daughter told me that Ro-Tel and cream cheese are staples of Southern cooking.