On Sunday, my son and daughter-in-law came over for dinner with her father and stepmother to be and my brother . I inquired about their fondness for shellfish, and was told that they liked shrimp, but daughter-in-law didn't. Okay. Drop the shellfish recipe idea and go with side dishes and appetizers. I figured with 7 people, we could serve a hot appetizer. Hence the deep-fried grits balls.
I also had (or thought I had) all the ingredients. I definitely had grits, although I had to dig through the closet for them. I had seen a huge block of cheddar cheese in the refrigerator just the day before, I bought a bag of gluten free breadcrumbs at Whole Foods, (and then found another bag down in the bowels of the closet after I took the vacuum cleaner out to suck up the dog hair on the rug.) I bought two dozen eggs for the dessert, so I had eggs. All set.
I even realized that this is, while not a day before recipe, a couple of hours before kind of recipe. The grits had to be cooked and cooled, which I did around 3:00. But, as usual, there's a slip between the cup and the lip, or something to that effect.
About boiling grits. Any kind of ground corn, which is what grits are, clumps up in boiling water if you just dump them in. The directions say add them slowly. What that means is, maybe add a couple of tablespoons at a time, and stir them into the water. You don't have to measure, but that is what I mean by a small amount.
Then it was time for assembly of the grits balls. I opened the refrigerator for the huge block of cheddar cheese, and found it gone! Quel horreur! I asked Bob, my husband, if we had any cheese. He said no. I hadn't told him I needed some, and he had used it all with the broccoli soufflé. At this point it was around 5:30 and the guests were coming at 6. I did not want to run off to the grocery store. Innovation took hold. I grabbed the medium block of Monterrey jack cheese and used that.
If the cook does not mind cooking while the guests are getting settled, these are not a difficult hors d"oeuvre There is a relatively short list of ingredients which one mashes all together and forms into balls. The balls are then dipped in beaten egg and finally the gluten-free bread crumbs.
The balls are dropped in hot oil and fried until brown. The cooking takes about fifteen to twenty minutes. One easily could assemble the grits balls in the morning, pop them into the fryer before the guests arrive and keep them warm in the oven.
How do you know when the oil is hot enough? We actually had a discussion about this while munching on the grits balls. I used my 40 year old electric frying pan, which has a thermometer on the dial. If you are lacking such a piece of equipment, here's what to do. Drop a small piece of grits ball into the hot fat. If it starts bubbling and browning right away, the fat is hot enough. If not, it's not hot enough.
These were very well received. My daughter-in-law said they tasted like deep fried macaroni and cheese. "What are these?" she inquired. "Deep fried grits balls," I replied. "Are we in the Southern section of the cookbook?" she asked. "Sure enough, honey child," said I.
The flavoring is a little off. It calls for nutmeg and cayenne pepper. If I ever make these again, which I probably won't unless my son asks me to, I will definitely use cheddar cheese, because the Monterrey Jack was a little bland, and lose the nutmeg. Nutmeg isn't bad, it just didn't seem to belong there.
Deep Fried Grits Balls
2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup quick cooking (or non quick cooking) grits
1 cup grated cheddar cheese or Gruyere cheese
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons peanut oil (and 3-4 cups peanut oil for frying)
1 1/2 cup breadcrumbs (I used gluten free breadcrumbs)
1. Bring the water to a boil and add salt.When water is boiling, add the grits slowly. Return to a boil and cook over direct heat, stirring occasionally, two and a half to five minutes. Chill the grits.
2. Mash grits with a fork and stir in the cheese, cayenne, nutmeg and pepper, With hands, shape into approximately forty balls. (Mine were probably too big.) beat the eggs and oil together. Dip balls in mixture, then roll in the bread crumbs.
Fry in hot fat (375 degrees) about two minutes, or until golden brown.
Makes forty grits balls.