Coast Cooking

Grits aren’t just for breakfast anymore, especially if you try these variations

Grits pair perfectly with a classic red sauce.
Grits pair perfectly with a classic red sauce. Special to the Sun Herald

Southerners love grits, but Southerners aren’t the only ones.

Italians have their own version of grits, too — polenta, which also is a ground cornmeal similar to grits, especially yellow grits.

Polenta, however, has a finer grind, resulting in a different texture.

Google polenta recipes, and you’ll find combinations, including polenta with mushrooms, or chickpeas and olives or balsamic onions or roasted peppers and feta.

You can try any of those combinations with grits, or if you want to go for a Southern theme top some grits with collard greens that are simmered until tender in a salty ham stock.

Today, I’ll share a few grit recipes for you to try.

Take my recommendation, though, and try some fresh-ground yellow Original Grit Girl Grits that are milled in Mississippi.

You can find them at the Ocean Springs Fresh Market on Saturday morning. You’ll be glad you did.

Basic Grits Recipe

2 cups chicken broth

½ cup whipping cream

1 cup Original Grit Girl Grits

Heat stock until it is simmering, add the grits and whipping cream, stir well, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes, or until tender.

Sausage and Cheese Grits

This is a recipe my mother used to make on cold mornings in north Mississippi.

1 cup fresh ground grits

2 cups chicken stock

¼ cup cream

Butter as needed

2/3 cup Jimmy Dean breakfast sausage

½ cup grated cheddar cheese

Combine the grits and stock in a sauce pan and simmer slowly until almost tender. Add additional (hot) stock as needed. Sauté the sausage until well-browned, remove and drain. Just before the grits are done, about 20 minutes, add the cream, as much butter as you like, the cheese and sausage. Combine well, and simmer just until the cheese is melted. Serve in coffee cups with a spoon, or you can pour the mixture into ramekins, allow to cool and then pop out of the mold. Top with an over-easy egg if you like.

Grit Cakes and Red Sauce

1 large can whole, imported tomatoes

1 chopped red onion

1 chopped bell pepper

2-4 cloves chopped garlic

Salt and fresh-ground black pepper, red pepper flakes

1 cup dry red wine

Oregano (if you use fresh, add at the very end of cooking)

Best quality olive oil

Optional Italian sausage, ground beef, or pork

Sauté the onion and bell pepper in olive oil for 10 minutes, remembering to season as you go. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes longer. Add the wine and reduce by half. Add the tomatoes (If you are using the meat, sauté until well-done, and add now), and simmer for 20 minutes. Taste and season as needed. Using the recipe above, make the grits (add Italian cheese if you like), pour into ramekins and when cool, remove. Plate grit cake and top with sauce.

Shrimp and Grits

1-pound large, peeled shrimp

2/3 cup fine chopped onion

1 chopped bell pepper

2-3 cloves diced garlic

1 large heirloom tomato, diced

Black pepper, red pepper flakes, Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning

Olive oil

Optional butter, green onions

Use the recipe above to make the grits, pour into ramekins and when cook, remove and set aside. Season the shrimp aggressively with Tony’s. Heat a sauté pan with olive oil till near (but not quite) smoking hot. Add the shrimp in batches and cook for 2 minutes, tossing often. Remove and set aside. In the same pan, add the onion and bell pepper, use more oil if needed, season again and cook for 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add the diced fresh tomato and cook for 5 minutes more. Add the shrimp and toss well. Add the butter now if you are going to use it. Plate the grits and top with the shrimp. Garnish with green onions if desired.