Adapted from Bon Appetit, Y'all by Virginia Willis
This simple casserole is a familiar dish in the South. It is an absolute standard at potlucks, brunches, weddings, and funerals. Casseroles are the salve that heals a Southerner’s wounded soul. I always call this dish “funeral grits” because it’s the perfect dish to take to the bereaved after the funeral. It can be treated as a side dish, held for hours in a low oven with few ill effects, and the leftovers reheat wonderfully. Funeral food in the South is a category all to itself. The food should be comforting, not too fancy, and even in this day and age, is best if homemade (not a platter of sliced deli meats from the grocery store). When my godfather, Uncle Raymond, died many years ago, I remember the women swarming in the kitchen, each and every one of them taking on a specific chore. Even though I was a professional cook by this time, I was designated for phone duty. I didn’t mind; I may have been a professional cook, but I was still the youngest and lowest on the totem pole.
This dish serves six to eight people, more than most of the recipes in this book. Lord knows, a dish serving less people won’t go far at a Southern funeral. Use this recipe as a guide and make it your own. Add more jalapeño to give it some real heat, or switch up the cheeses and try adding freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, Gruyere, or white Cheddar.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the dish
2 cups water
2 cups whole milk
1 cup stone-ground or coarse-ground grits
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups grated sharp Cheddar cheese (about 6 ounces)
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 jalapeño chile, seeded and finely chopped
2 green onions, white and green parts, chopped
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a large casserole.
In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the water and milk and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir in the grits and return to a boil. Season with salt and pepper. Decrease the heat to low, and simmer until creamy and thick, 45 to 60 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the cheese and 2 tablespoons butter.
Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper and stir to combine. Add the eggs, cayenne, jalapeño, and green onions and stir until well incorporated. Spoon the mixture into the prepared casserole. Bake until bubbly and golden brown, about 1 hour. Remove to a rack to cool slightly before serving.
Yield: Serves 6 to 8
Recipes: Side Dishes, Grits, Dairy, Kosher