Grits Casserole… Or How I Learned to be a Southerner in 12 Steps

When you grow up eating a particular food, of course it doesn’t taste, look, or seem weird to you at all, right? But if you are like me, when you first try a dish that you are not so certain about, there is always that thought, “Gosh, not sure if I am going to like it! Look at these people, gobbling it up spoon after spoon without hesitation!” rushing through your mind.

I have had that thought a lot since I moved to South Carolina. Not only about food, but about anything that people say, do, or don’t do here. “Not sure if I’ll like this!” … Some things grossed me out, some things made me really question people’s habits, some things made me question myself… and some things I easily got accustomed to. As it turned more obvious year after year that I was here to stay, I had to make a conscious decision not to judge anything or anybody but embrace it all!

By gradually taking the steps below, now I call myself “Southerner by choice”! Here they are:

1. Don’t  say “Yuck! Gross!!” or roll over your eyes when you see pickled pig feet, or pink pickled eggs in a jar on the grocery aisles, or when somebody offers you a pig skin sandwich. Smile kindly and move on to the next item on the aisle or on the menu!

2. Learn not to freak out when a complete stranger at the cash register calls you with nicknames only your loving mother would do. No harm comes from “sweetheart”, “darling”, or “honey” unless the cashier is a particularly creepy looking guy…

3. Learn not to complain about the humidity and heat! There is nothing you can do about it, so just shut up and drink more sweet tea.

4. Under no circumstances, call sweet tea, iced tea!

5. Buy flip flops… no matter how much they hurt your feet. Make sure they have a palm tree picture somewhere on them.

6. When a little old  Southern lady smiles and says “God Bless Your Heart, darling!” after you told her something about what you had done earlier, be aware that the phrase has a more subtle meaning than it appears. But don’t bluntly say to her “Are you calling me stupid? Because I know what you are thinking!” I don’t think they know how to respond to that. I still have not figured out what to say, so I just keep my mouth shut. But I never, ever forget the person!

7. When they serve you grits at a brunch, push them around a bit on your plate to make it look like you are eating, and maybe take a few small bites loaded with cheese and butter. Smile. Return the plate back, grits uneaten.

8. Taste some moonshine (but make sure it’s from a good, reputable source so that you don’t go blind!), eat barbeque, and go to a bluegrass concert up in the mountains. If you can do all three at once, it makes each one even better.

9. Learn the “twang” and get comfortable saying “Y’all”. Learn to discuss important matters such as “pEcan-or-pecAn?”, college football, different BBQ sauces, pies, and fireworks…

10. Make friends with butter and bacon grease. Everything tastes better when it’s greasy. Also, things are better with more cheese and more cream!

11. Collect bacon grease in a Mason jar to use it for other cooking.

12. Learn to cook one of the following: grits casserole (or any casserole), red velvet cake, biscuits, cornbread, greens, frogmore stew, or potato salad. Get some pie recipes under your belt… if any of these foods are not for you, learn them anyway for the people around you.

I still have not mastered some of these—like keeping a straight face when I say “God Bless Your Heart!”—but I think I have mastered one thing (according to my husband; I still won’t eat it myself): Grits Casserole… I take the Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook recipe as base and improvise every time with something different. This weekend’s casserole was particularly good, again based on my Southern husband’s review. I am giving both recipes: From the cookbook and after my changes. Take your pick.

Have a great week, Y’All!

Ilke’s Grits Casserole

  • 2 cups of water, 2 cups of whole milk and 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup uncooked stone ground grits
  • 3 cups shredded Gouda cheese ( I heard Gruyere cheese goes well but after seeing the current prices, I opted for Gouda)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 5 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1. See below for the instructions. I cooked grits in water-milk mixture until it thickened (15-20 min). I mixed the grated parmesan cheese with paprika and sprinkled it on the casserole 15 minutes before it was done.

Grits Casserole (The Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook)

  • 4 cups of water and 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup uncooked quick-cooking grits
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika

1. Cook grits in salted water, stirring occasionally.

2. Add cheese, butter, milk, Worcestershire sauce, ground red pepper. Stir until everything is melted and completely mixed.

3. Add the eggs and transfer into a lightly greased 2-quart casserole dish. Sprinkle with paprika.

4. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for an hour. Let it stand 15 minutes before serving.

 

 

 

 

 

18 Comments:

  1. by Parsley Sage
    9:00 am
    Apr 19, 2011

    HA! I grew up in Oklahoma and it seems like you’ve gotten things down pretty good. Awesome recipe. I typically push my grits around on my plate too but this casserole looks outstanding. Well done.

    And its pE-caaahn. :)

  2. by Ilke
    9:46 am
    Apr 19, 2011

    @ Parsley Sage- Thanks :) If there is anything I forgot in the list, let me know :)

  3. by Mary
    9:25 am
    Apr 19, 2011

    I loved this post. I even loved your recipes for grits. This is my first visit to your site and I’ve spent some time browsing through your earlier entries. I really like the food and recipes you feature here and I’ll definitely be back. I hope you have a great day. Blessings…Mary

  4. by Ilke
    9:44 am
    Apr 19, 2011

    Hi Mary, thanks for stopping by! Hope you liked what you have seen! I will make it to yours as soon as I can :)

  5. by Melinda
    9:33 am
    Apr 19, 2011

    I am definitely making this…probably this weekend. I hate grits, but I love me a grit casserole with cheese! I bet it would taste even better with some crumbled bacon or sausage in it!!!! mmmm…mmmm….mmmm….

  6. by Ilke
    9:44 am
    Apr 19, 2011

    Hmm Melinda, it is a great idea to add some meat to it! That will make it more “edible” for me :)

  7. by Sommer@ASpicyPerspective
    1:57 pm
    Apr 21, 2011

    Ha! I’m STILL learning to be southern. :) Almost have the hang of it.
    The grits look delightful!

  8. by Ilke
    6:11 am
    Apr 22, 2011

    Thanks Sommer! There are several things I will never be able to learn, like not to honk your horn at stupid drivers who do not know what they are doing! According to my husband, it is considered rude down here and I should just be calm and let it go!
    No way!

  9. by All That I'm Eating
    3:42 pm
    Apr 21, 2011

    I liked it down South when I visited. It was pretty hot! I didn’t have grits when I was over there…what are grits?

  10. by Ilke
    6:08 am
    Apr 22, 2011

    Grits is coarse ground corn, you did not miss much. If you really want, send me your address and I will send you a package to try :)

  11. by Peggy
    5:00 pm
    Apr 21, 2011

    I’ve never been able to stomach grits for breakfast, but love them in a savory dinner (i.e. shrimp n’ grits)… but I’m just gonna have to try this casserole because it looks mighty tasty!

  12. by Ilke
    6:06 am
    Apr 22, 2011

    I can eat that shrimp and grits too! Must be the sauce that is hiding the grits and making it delicious!

  13. by Tanvi
    1:20 am
    Apr 22, 2011

    A straight from the heart post,Ilke.I was smiling while reading all about the mighty bacon grease :)
    These grits look yum.I love the addition of worcestershire sauce here.

  14. by Ilke
    6:06 am
    Apr 22, 2011

    Thanks Tanvi :) I was told they are yummy :)

  15. by sonia
    5:10 pm
    Apr 22, 2011

    Hi Ilke, This is looking absolutely delightful. Very nicely made and presented. Have a great day !

  16. by Xiaolu @ 6 Bittersweets
    4:48 pm
    May 1, 2011

    Mmm I love the texture of grits, cornmeal, cream of wheat, you name it! This looks fantastic.

  17. by class factotum
    4:24 pm
    May 25, 2011

    I was shocked when I found out that some people just discard their bacon fat. My grandmother had a bacon grease can, my mom had a jar, and I have a jar. Almost every food is improved with bacon fat. Yes. Even chocolate.

    The first time I had grits, I was in high school and eating at a friend’s house. I thought grits were like cream of wheat, so I added sugar. Not the right thing to do.

    Fast forward 20 years with no grits. I am at the same friend’s wedding breakfast. Tried the grits again, only this time they were loaded with butter, cream, cream cheese, and cheddar. Omigosh. So fabulous. Maybe I’ll make those tonight – and add some bacon grease.

  18. by Ilke
    9:29 pm
    May 25, 2011

    Anita, maybe I need to wait 20 years as well to finally consider them edible! :)
    Our cholesterol numbers came high, I am afraid bacon grease might be leaving our house soon :(

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