Grits and polenta are both ground corn products, and the primary difference is in the size of the grind and how they are prepared.
Most cooks don’t get too excited about grits and so they often come from the kitchen unadorned, simple and not inspired.
Call it polenta and people become creative, mixing in cheeses, fat bacon and sausage, and all manner of fortifying ingredients.
There is nothing wrong with that approach to polenta, but we shouldn't leave its cousin, grits, waiting on the back porch. Both can be delicious when prepared properly.
Another important aspect of grit-making is the freshness of the grits. Open the package and if it doesn’t smell of corn, it is old and stale and will have little flavor. Look for locally ground corn products.
Chef John Currence in his cookbook “Pickles, Pigs & Whiskey: Recipes from My Three Favorite Food Groups and Then Some,” has a Creole cream cheese grits recipe that I like.
Remember this is my take on Currence’s recipe. If you want to see exactly how he does it, buy the book.
1 cup freshly ground grits
2 cups homemade chicken stock
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup cream cheese
Additional warm milk as needed
Melt the butter, add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes, add the stock and bring to a simmer. Slowly whisk in the grits, bring back to a simmer and cook until tender, 20-30 minutes. Whisk in the cream cheese and serve at once. If the grits get too thick, whisk in a little warm milk.