Before I left my home in New Orleans for college, my mum handed me a beautiful blue-and-white book filled with old family recipes and dishes we’d cooked together throughout my childhood. I’d like to share with you a recipe from it, one for Southern baked cheese grits. This buttery dish has been a staple at our annual Christmas Eve fête for the last two decades, it’s creamy middle and crispy cheese topping the centrepiece of so much joy and so many memories. Although I know the recipe by heart, every time I make it, I still pull out that old family recipe book.
- 1½ cups grits (see Note)
- 125 g butter
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper, plus extra, to taste
- 1 tsp garlic salt, plus extra, to taste
- 1 tsp sea salt, plus extra, to taste
- 500 g sharp cheddar cheese, grated
- 3 eggs, beaten
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Cook the grits in a large saucepan according to the package directions. (This will vary depending on the grits you use; regardless, do not add the recommended salt. You will season the grits later in the cooking process.)
Once the grits are cooked, add the butter, cayenne, garlic salt, sea salt and 450 g grated cheese. Mix well, making sure to beat out any clumps (I find using a strong whisk works well for this.) Taste test and adjust the spices if necessary. When finished seasoning, beat in the eggs.
Butter a 23–30 cm baking dish and pour in the mixture (you can also do this is an extra-large 36 cm cast-iron frying pan). Top with the remaining 50 g grated cheese and bake for 1 hour 15 minutes or until the cheese on the top begins to brown and crisp. Serve.
• Grits are made from ground dried corn. Available from selected greengrocers and delis. Substitute coarse polenta and cook according to packet instructions for soft polenta.
Recipe from Chocolate + Marrow by Brooke Bass, with photographs by Brooke Bass.