Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Cheese Grits Casserole

On Sunday, the YMs, our friend Tim, Bob's old colleague and friend Kathleen  and my brother George came to dinner. I decided to have Southern dinner, especially because the New England choices are kind of thin. Tim, who comes from Alabama, was especially pleased.
"I like to know what I'm eating," he said. Apparently, he doesn't always know what he's eating when he comes to our house.
Since the beans had to cook or set for hours, I started them around 2:00. About 5:00, it was time for the grits. I had had my eye on this recipe for several weeks, since I bought the grits for something else. I bought several iterations of sharp cheddar cheese that got eaten or made into some other dish. However, when I opened the cookbook, I couldn't find it. My eyes fell instead on a recipe for grits souffle. I started the grits with the intention of making the souffle. Immediately, I sensed a problem. The directions on the grits box tell you how to make various numbers of servings, not, how many cups of uncooked grits one needs to produce a certain number of cups of cooked grits.
Since time was passing, I winged it. I figured that if one cup of uncooked rice and two cups of water produce two cups of cooked rice, something like that would work for grits. It did. I put two cups of grits and four cups of water in the saucepan. Then I came to my senses . This dish had cheese in it, I said to myself.   I  looked in the index. I hadn't been able to find Cheese Grits Casserole because it was under main dishes at the end, with cheese concoctions.
I scraped the large amount of grits out of the sauce pan into a greased baking dish, mixed in everything but the beaten egg white and set it off to the side while I went to work on the fried chicken. I am not giving you the recipe because I made it once before, sometime in the 1980s. When the chicken was soaking in the milk, I went back to the grits. My husband Bob beat the egg white with a whisk. For some reason I had reached the state of malaise, or fatigue that made taking out the hand beater too much effort.  The whole thing went into the oven and came out onto the plates of the delighted diners.
My son pronounced grits much better as a side dish than as a breakfast food. I have to say I agree. The first time I encountered them was on a ski trip for teenagers in Vermont. I thought it was cream of wheat and put milk and sugar on them. Cheese and butter makes virtually anything downright tasty.

Cheese Grits Casserole

5 cups water
1 cup hominy grits (I used regular grits. I prefer not to use quick cooking anything.)
1/2 pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 cup butter
1 egg separated
1 teaspoon salt

1. Bring the water to a boil and gradually stir in the grits. Simmer, covered, twenty five to thirty minutes, stirring often.
2. Stir in the cheese and butter until melted. Spoon a little of the hot mixture not the egg yolk, return to the bulk of the mixture, add the salt and mix. Cool to room temperature.
3 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
4. Beat the egg white until stiff but not dry and fold into the cooled mixture. Spoon mixture into a greased baking dish and bake, covered, forty minutes. Remove cover, turn oven heat to 375 degrees and bake until top of casserole is slightly browned.
Makes six servings.

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