Not many people will agree with me, but I will say it: I like grits. If they are on the menu, I will order them. Unfortunately, they have been fighting a bad rap since they were probably first made. But hot grits with a pat of butter is good. Stir in some cheese and they are great. Top them with some sauteed shrimp and bacon and they are divine. That’s the trick right there. We are all familiar with the first breakfast side dish, but we don’t seem to get the idea that there is a lot more to this ingredient/dish.

Basically, grits are made from ground corn, from the starchier varieties known as dent. Nutrition varies according to how they are processed, so definitely check your product label if this concerns you.

 Grit Types

Stone-ground (aka Old Fashioned) — are milled with the germ, are coarser, and take longer to cook.

Quick cooking — the corn is more finely milled and takes less time to cook.

Instant — precooked and dehydrated and simply need to be rehydrated in hot water (not this chef’s favorite idea).

Hominy — made from corn that has been soaked in an alkaline solution, and the hull is removed before milling.

Heirloom — made from various types of corn that might have a different color, such as blue or red,

Cooking grits couldn’t be easier. Measure out a four-to-one ratio of water to grits. Bring the water to a boil, and cook grits until they are done—45 minutes for stone-ground and about 5 minutes for quick cooking. Instead of straight water, you can use a bit of milk for a creamier texture or chicken broth to add a savory flavor.

Serving suggestions include adding butter, crispy bacon, and cheese to your grits for breakfast, and, as mentioned before, topping with shrimp for an appetizer or main course for dinner. Grits and peas make a nice side dish alongside roasted bird or meat. The real secret to grits is they have a mild flavor, so it is easy for almost any other ingredient to shine when you pair it with them.

Online, you can find numerous grit casserole dishes that might be the star side dish of your dinner table or your cookout. Sorting through them might be the most difficult part of the process, but once you find a good one, you might wonder how you lived without it.

Grits can also be served with your favorite soup, poured over it to give it a different texture. I am not so sure about salad, but I am certain there is a recipe out there somewhere.

I have also seen recipes for desserts using grits. Some are as simple as adding macerated berries on top of plain grits with a bit of sugar or honey. Some call for baking, such as cookies and cakes.

So, like most things that we seem to write off as old fashioned or out of date, we can find a new twist to make it fresh and new again. Grits are about as American as it gets, and maybe we should take some time to find a way to appreciate them again and get them on our table at any meal. Maybe if we called them “breakfast corn,” we might be more welcoming to it.

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