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Southern Comfort Food

by Melanie Jones on July 21, 2010

Despite having lived all of my 32 years in Arkansas, I’ve never been much of a fan of many typical Southern foods, particularly side dishes. Beans and cornbread (or worse, cornbread mushed up in a glass with buttermilk), greens, hominy, fried squash…none of these have ever held any appeal whatsoever to me, despite having it all forced upon me during my childhood. I like my greens in a salad, and I prefer my squash sauteed in some olive oil with a little garlic. Or a lot of garlic.

One Southern food I was never force-fed during my youth was grits. Grandma never made them (because Grandma only made things I loved and it all tasted good), and it wasn’t until several years ago that I first tried them, when my husband procured his mom’s recipe for our New Year’s Day feast (also the only time I’ll eat black-eyed peas, and only if my husband makes them, because they’re damn tasty). The specific recipe was for tomato grits…and yeah, I didn’t like them so much.

I wasn’t faced with the scary consistency and texture of grits until a couple of years later at a breakfast potluck at work. Garlic cheese grits casserole, to be precise. I was convinced to try them, since they did contain two of my favorite food groups, cheese and garlic. Clearly those two things would make grits edible. And oh, do they ever!

I procured the recipe and have sort of made it my own over the past few years. I like to call them Angry Grits, mainly because of how violently the grits boil on the stove top. There’s a reason you cook them with the lid on the saucepan. And also, depending on how you make them, they can be a little spicy. They’re not at all healthy, but they’re better than mac & cheese when it comes to delicious comfort food. I made some tonight, and they go quite well with crab cakes!

Here’s my version of the recipe. It fills a 2-quart casserole dish, which means plenty of leftovers for lunch tomorrow!

Garlic Cheese Grits Casserole

1. Boil 4 cups of water with a teaspoon of salt. I like sea salt. Mostly because of the cute container I keep it in.

2. Stir in 1 cup of instant grits. Reduce the heat, cover and cook about 5 minutes. Stir a couple of times. (You might get splattered with rogue grits.)

3. Stir in 8 ounces of cubed plain Velveeta and 8 ounces of Mexican Velveeta. (Like I said, not at all healthy.) If you want more jalapeno-y goodness, go for more Mexican and less of the plain. Either way, mix well.

4. Add a stick of unsalted butter. (Not. At. All. Healthy.) Mix well.

5. Add garlic powder. I like it garlicky, so I mix in about a tablespoon. I also like to add in a little pepper.

6. Pour unhealthy grits concoction into casserole dish and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Enjoy. But only a few times a year.

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