Coast Cooking

Grits or polenta? There is a difference

Shrimp and grits is quick and easy.
Shrimp and grits is quick and easy. Special to the Sun Herald

What’s the difference between grits and polenta?

The price.

It’s not a very funny joke, but it illustrates the point that they are both just ground corn.

I told that joke to a friend once, and he got a chuckle out of it but told me he didn’t believe it to be true.

He told me I needed to talk to Georgeanne Ross, the owner of The Original Grit Girl.

I did, and not only did she tell me he was right but she has also become a dear friend.

The difference between grits and polenta is in the grind.

“The closer the stones,” Ross said, “the finer the grind. Grits cook thick, polenta cooks creamy.”

The Original Grit Girl sells her fresh ground grits, polenta, masa and corn meal to more than 130 restaurants throughout the nation.

There are several factors that make her products superior.

First, she is a master miller, one of the few female millers in the nation, and she is an expert at what she does.

She buys her corn from a farmer’s co-op in Houston, Mississippi, and, perhaps this is the most important, she grinds fresh every week. Fresh always makes a difference.

Ross only sells wholesale, but you are in luck if you want to score a pound or two, because Robert Sweeting sells them at the Ocean Springs Fresh Market on Saturday mornings.

If you are not a fan of grits, give Ross’s fresh-ground grits a try, and you will find out what you are missing.

After you get those good grits, give these recipes a try.

Breakfast Grits

1 cup grits

2 cups chicken broth

½ cup whipping cream

2 cups white or yellow cheddar cheese

½ cup ground sausage

1 egg

Optional red pepper flakes

Sauté the sausage until well-browned, then set aside. Combine the stock and cream and bring to low simmer, season with red pepper flakes if you like, whisk in the grits and cook until almost done. This can vary from 30 to 45 minutes. If you need to add additional liquid, make sure it is hot. If you add cold liquid it stops the cooking process and will take forever to finish cooking. Add the cheese and stir until it is fully incorporated, then add the sausage and mix well. Place in a ramekin, add the egg on top and run under the broiler until the egg is cooked the way you like it.

Pork Chop and Grits and Chow-chow Garnish

Any type of pork seems to do very well with grits, you can use the cheese grits recipe above (leaving out the sausage), or you can use the stock and cream but leave out the cheese.

1 bone in chop per person

Grits as in recipe above

Chow-chow for garnish

The best way to prepare the chop is to sous vide it, but if you do not have an immersion circulator yet, you can quickly sauté the chop in butter, after seasoning only with salt and pepper. Just make sure not to overcook the pork. It should be tender and pink inside.


1 large can whole tomatoes

1 chopped onion

4-6 whole cloves

1-2 diced jalapeno peppers

1 cup vinegar

2/3 cup sugar

Combine all ingredients and simmer until very thick. Use on any peas or beans, also great on cornbread.

Plate the grits, top with the chop and a garnish of chow-chow.

Shrimp and grits

Use cheese grits as in the recipe with this package

1 pound peeled USA wild caught shrimp

⅔ cup chopped onion

½ chopped bell pepper

1 large chopped red ripe tomato

Red pepper flakes, salt and pepper

Butter and olive oil

Season the shrimp and cook quickly in butter. Just a minute per side, over high heat, will do. Remove and set aside. Add the onions and bell peppers to the pan, add a bit more butter and oil, season again and sauté until tender, at least 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook for 10 minutes more. Taste and re-season as necessary. Add the shrimp and cook for just a minute or two longer. Plate the grits and top with the shrimp and sauce. Serve at once.