Food and Drink

Baked Cheese Grits

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.
4-6 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!

22 thoughts on “Baked Cheese Grits”

  1. Hey, Cheese grits are a must around here at brunches and breakfasts. Although, I must say I have never read the directions or made them, I just eat them. What an intersting recipe you have there and all the dialogue. Hope you all enjoyed.

  2. My mother used to sigh with nostalgia, remembering her mother’s cheese grits–but she never made them for us, and I don’t have a recipe! But I do now. Thanks.

  3. Sounds really yummy. We Southern Californian children of transplanted midwesterners did not get any grits growing up. But I do love them. I especially like them if someone else makes them for me.

  4. Oh! I love cheese grits. But I just mix cheese with my grits. Of course, trying to lose weight I haven’t had grits in a long time. (OK, since I went to the Arkansas Heritage Blues Festival in October and stayed at one of the casinos in Tunica and had the buffet breakfast.) Thanks for the memories.

  5. go out for a mother-daughter pedicure with your 12-year-old.
    Nothing open here today (only the equivalent of a small 7-11 is allowed to open – from 12-9pm!) so this thought really made me smile. And a 12 year old being introduced to the delights of a pedi already. You are one amazing mum!
    Blessed time with your family 🙂

  6. Grits are a main staple here — at the grocery we have instant (oh no never never), 5 minute or quick grits, and then the variety that takes longer (yes, those are very good), then there are grits that are stone ground (their texture is not as smooth but it gives a more accurate taste of the corn). Anyway, about the salt, since you are using cheese, that has a good bit of salt in it – and one can always add the salt afterwards if need be (oh yeah the butter has salt in it too).
    However, I think the salt keeps the boiling grits from also overflowing from the pot, if I am not mistaken.
    BTW, for those of you who have not tried grits, grits are eating with salt and butter, NEVER sugar — whoever thought that one up?????
    Ok, didn’t mean to write an entire post here… St. Cassie can probably tell you a thing or two about grits also.

  7. Cathy, I agree, I’ve never, ever had them with any kind of sweetening. Also, I used unsalted butter (the only kind I buy), and they did need a smidge of salt when served.
    QG, you can find the Quick Grits in all the grocery stores here, but not any of the other varieties Cathy described.
    I find there are three attitudes about grits:
    1) Hurray! Grits!
    2) Bleh.
    3) Huh?

  8. Cheese grits. White cake with coconut icing. Smithfield ham on biscuits. Green beans with almonds. Pan-fried chicken. Cream cheese with pepper jelly on crackers. Bourbon and water. Spiced pecans. Peanuts from The Peanut Shop.
    Your post sparked a little Jane Austen’s Village free association the day after Christmas. Yum.

  9. This sounds great! We always have grits on Christmas (or whenever we cook a big breakfast) since my hubby and I are both from the South (U.S.) but I’ve never been a huge fan. The addition of cheese and garlic sounds like a real improvement. Thanks for sharing both your mom’s recipe and your own variations. Reading it brought to mind my own mother and grandmother. I’m glad you have those memories and traditions to carry with you.

  10. Ruby, I had cream cheese with pepper jelly on crackers just today! How I love those taste memories. I never enjoyed bourbon, but I remember the way it smelled and love the associations.

  11. I think I’ve put on 10 pounds just reading the post and all the comments!
    I love grits! Haven’t had ’em in an age and a half. Gonna try this recipe after I lose all my holiday weight. I may not have grown up in the true south (east of the Mississippi and south of the Mason-Dixon line), but I come from a long line of steel magnolias and was trained in the niceties. And grits with sweetener is sacrilege.
    That’s all. Here, pass around this plate of divinity for dessert and we’re all set.

  12. The grits sound delicious and the Christmas picture is wonderful! My computer is on the fritz so I may not check in for a while, but have a glorious time with St. Cass!

  13. Songbird, I just heart you! One of these days, I’m going to send you a can of The-Best-Grits-Ever from Mitten-Shaped-State, which I realize sounds like a complete contradiction, but trust me! Happy travels!

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