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Grits: Stone-ground and slow-cooked
(CNN) -- Grits have a bad reputation. The Southern staple has been reduced to a tasteless, runny goo and slopped down on cafeteria plates one too many times.
Give grits another try. Forget instant and instead indulge in grits that are stone-ground, slow-cooked and seasoned.
"The potential of grits is one of the great unrealized things in our culture," says author Ronni Lundy, who dedicated a whole chapter of her book "Butter Beans to Blackberries" to grits.
What are grits?
Grits are made from corn, preferably white corn, which is less starchy than yellow. The corn is dried and processed with lye. Whole corn is often referred to as hominy, ground hominy as grits.
Instant grits, available everywhere, have had the germ removed to speed up cooking time. Expect stone-ground grits, available at small mills, health food stores and some supermarkets, to simmer about 40 minutes.
Lundy recommends using grits in place of pasta, rice, risotto or polenta.
"In my family, we eat it as a dinner dish," she says.
Partner grits with tomato gravy, a pasta sauce or vegetables for grits primavera. To convert skeptics, Lundy says pair grits with something to make it more interesting such as cheese grits or garlic grits.
At South City Kitchen in Atlanta, grits from a small Georgia mountain mill are cooked in milk and butter and finished with cream. For a signature dinner dish, the grits are topped with sautéed shrimp and scallops with a rich garlic gravy. Grits alone, spooned up and garnished with chopped chives, are available anytime as a side dish, listed along with mustard greens and horseradish slaw."They have such a mild flavor; they pretty much go with anything," says chef Robert Opdenbrouw.
Cook 'em up
Lundy likes to cook grits in a double boiler to prevent scorching and reduced the need for constant stirring.
To cook, bring salt and water to boil over high heat. Stir in grits slowly to prevent clumping, and lower heat to a simmer. Cook grits 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep grits from sticking to the bottom of the pan. If grits become too thick, add a little boiling water.
Opdenbrouw says test the grits for readiness. They should have a little firmness but not be crunchy.
Look for the consistency of oatmeal, or slightly thinner than mashed potatoes.
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