Apr 27, 2016

Recipe Box- Cheese Grits Casserole

Let's talk about grits!

As a southern girl growing up in Alabama, you'd probably think that I grew up eating grits everyday. I mean, they are served everywhere here, from gourmet restaurants to Mawmaw's kitchen. But, alas, I must admit that I wasn't always such a big fan. As a child, I was texture-adverse to lots of foods, grits being one of the main ones. But somewhere along the way, I got over the grittiness and learned the true joy of a good bowl of cheese grits. The kind that sticks to your ribs. The kind served in a cereal bowl with three pieces of bacon and a buttermilk biscuit. 

You know what I'm talking about!

And, if you don't, then you've come to the right place because I'm going to spill the beans on one of my favorite grits recipes. 

I was in Lexington, MA for my best friend's wedding this past weekend, and despite already being a bridesmaid, I'd also agreed to cook the brunch for the morning after the wedding. It wasn't until a few weeks before the wedding that I realized that was truly a crazy idea. I mean, we all know that I was going to dance the night away until the reception ended at midnight. How was I possibly going to get up in the morning and have breakfast ready for 30+ people by 10am? 

By preparing the breakfast ahead of time. Like, two days ahead of time. 

First, I started by preparing Southern Living's recipe for One-Dish Blackberry French Toast. It's like breakfast bread pudding, and since it needs some time to soak up that delicious custard made from heavy cream and eggs, I knew it was a keeper for this particular event. I'd also decided to make some homemade buttermilk biscuits and freeze them, which makes for a crispy and flaky biscuit. Oh my! Again, another keeper for making breakfast ahead of time. I couldn't resist the opportunity to bring a little Southern flare to the Northeast, so I decided to bring out the big guns and make some grits. This grits casserole is creamy, cheesy, and delicious, and, as an added benefit, it can be made several days in advance and then popped in the oven the morning of the event. Doesn't get much easier than that!

Cheese Grits Casserole

makes 20 servings

1 24oz. tube old-fashioned grits

1 stick unsalted butter

1/2 pint heavy cream

1 tbs. thyme

2 c. shredded white cheddar cheese

4 eggs, beaten

salt and pepper to taste

For this particular recipe, I do recommend using old-fashioned grits versus quick grits. However, you can use quick grits for a shortcut. Just be sure to keep on eye on them because I've found quick grits are more apt to lump than old-fashioned ones. If you end up with major lumps, I recommend going after them with a whisk. But, also, don't worry about it too much. Momma always says that finding a lump in your grits is good luck. 

Measure out your water according to the maximum amount of grits in the tube. Generally, grits are a 2:1 ratio, but some brands vary. Once the water is boiling, add a healthy pinch of salt, and pour in the grits. Cover and simmer the appropriate amount of time according to the package. Stir occasionally to keeps the lumps at bay. Once the grits have absorbed most of the water and are creamy and amazing, turn off the heat, and add in the butter one tablespoon at a time. When the butter has been incorporated, pour in the heavy cream and then add the cheese. Stir until the cheese has melted, then season with salt, pepper, and thyme. Now, taste test for seasoning and because the chef deserves a taste of those delicious grits.

Beat the four eggs together in a separate small bowl and then temper the eggs with the hot grits by adding about a tablespoon at a time and stirring together. Once the eggs are tempered, pour them into the grits pot and stir to incorporate. Spray a large casserole dish (9x13 at least or use a disposable roasting pan) with cooking spray and pour in the grits. Now, if you're going to cook them immediately, have your oven pre-heated to 350 degrees and bake for 30 minutes. If you're making them ahead of time, cool the pan, then cover in foil and refrigerate until the morning of the event. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees, and pop them in, covered, for 45 minutes. Then, uncover and cook for an additional 15-20 minutes or until the edges are brown and pull away from the sides of the dish and the center looks set and hot. 

Enjoy!

Creamy Grits Casserole Recipe

(photo credit: myrecipes.com. Grits went so fast, I didn't have time to take a photo!)