It’s one of those recipes that brings back people and places no longer part of my life. We usually have it on Christmas Day, but due to the dual household family arrangements, we’re having it this morning instead, the famous Baked Cheese Garlic Grits. Over the years I’ve made adaptations to the recipe (more grits! butter instead of margarine! real garlic!), but this is my mother’s version, written out by hand on a battered recipe card, given to me when it was fresh and I a young bride, and even more carefully penned into a volume called "Grandmother Remembers."
3 cups water*
3/4 cup Quaker Quick Grits, uncooked**
1/4 tsp. salt (optional)***
1 egg, beaten****
1 cup (4 oz.) shredded cheddar cheese*****
2 tablespoons margarine******
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder (optional)*******
Dark Red Pepper sauce or ground red pepper (optional)********
*I’m afraid this recipe is now about to become a narrative, as I’ve realized everything in the recipe needs an explanation except the water.
**Do not use the Instant variety.
***Mother, you have got to be kidding. You can’t cook grits without salt. I just put some in the palm of my hand, I never measure.
****I used two eggs today, and when I double the recipe, I use three. I’m feeding teenagers, or their near neighbors.
*****We use Cracker Barrel’s Extra Sharp White, although my mother used the orange version and that gave the dish a different shade, shall we say. When I couldn’t find her recipe a few years ago and borrowed from Emeril (more butter!! a whole stick!! but that was for double the grits), we used a hunk of delicious cheddar someone had given us for Christmas, and that it was orange was okay.
******This gives you a sense of my mother’s era (1925-1993). Butter is "in" again, and we always use it.
*******Again, dear Mother, how is this optional? Although I have used garlic salt in a pinch, and usually finely minced fresh garlic.
********Next thing you know, she’ll say the grits are optional. I mean.
Back to my mother’s instructions. I’ll put them in italics, because her hand-writing was that pretty.
Heat oven to 350 degrees (F). Grease 1&1/2 quart casserole or baking dish. Prepare grits according to package directions. Add small amount of grits to beaten egg. Return grits/egg mixture to pan. Add remaining ingredients. Cook over low heat an additional minute or until cheese is melted. Pour into prepared casserole; bake 30-40 minutes or until top is set and lightly puffed. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
Here is the doubled version, with my adaptations. You will note I am less precise. This may have been the source of some of the stress in the mother-daughter relationship. I’m just sayin’.
2 cups Quick Grits (never Instant!) prepared according to package instructions.
(That includes salt. And does it really matter if you add the salt before the water boils? I am curious about this. Really. Because I always seem to put it in first. I do remember to pour the grits slowly into the boiling water, because otherwise they clump, and that is catastrophic.)
3 eggs, beaten (Do that thing my mother suggests when you mix them together. I usually forget, but I’m sure it’s sensible.)
1 stick of Cracker Barrel Extra Sharp White Cheddar (10 ounces, minus the slices you cut off the end for the dogs), shredded
1 stick butter (Oh, Emeril. You don’t care about the Weight Watchers Flex system, do you?)
1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced, as you wish
Red pepper sauce to serve on the side
Assemble as above, using a bigger baking dish. Be sure to bake for 1 hour.
And don’t forget to let it stand after, even though people are impatient to eat it.
Exhausted by comparing your technique to your mother’s, leave the casserole for the boys and go out for a mother-daughter pedicure with your 12-year-old.
Happy Boxing Day, all!