The release date for my novel, Miss Dreamsville and the Lost Heiress of Collier County, is just around the corner – September 8. I’m celebrating by sharing recipes of yummy dishes and desserts mentioned in the book, which is set in Florida during the 1960s. Today’s recipe is for Collier County “Guilty Pleasure” Cheese Grits. Special thanks to my husband, Blair, who grew up in Collier during that era, for his dutiful assistance in helping me re-create these recipes.Lord help us, but the guilty secret about cheese grits, that Southern favorite, is that the best cheese for the purpose of making baked grits comes from – dare I say it? – the North. That’s right. The key is using the sharpest Yankee cheddar cheese you can find. You may want to hide it in your shopping basket. (Hence, why they came to be called “guilty pleasure” cheese grits in Collier County, Florida.)
Now, if you live north of the Mason-Dixon Line, you may think it’s okay to use “instant grits.” Please be advised that Hominy grits are preferred, “Quick grits” are tolerated, but “Instant grits” are considered beneath one’s dignity!
While some recipes for Cheese Grits call for an egg or chicken broth, note that this was not the case, traditionally, in Collier County. For the truly adventurous, serve “Grits and Grunts” (see below).
Ingredients for Collier County Cheese Grits:
2 cups Hominy Grits
Three-quarter lb. sharp cheddar cheese
One-half lb. Gouda or Edam cheese
Water (typically 4 parts water to 1 part grits, but check packaging)
1 tsp Salt
Shred one-half lb of cheddar and all of the Gouda (or Edam) cheese. Set aside.
Using a cheese knife, flake one-quarter lb cheddar. Set aside for topping.
Using butter, grease a large casserole dish that is broiler-proof. A shallow dish is ideal.
In a large pot, add water and bring to boil.
Add grits to boiling water. Stir continuously with long-handled whisk or spoon until full cooked.
Add shredded cheddar. Blend.
Add shredded Gouda or Edam. Blend.
Add salt. Blend.
Pour into prepared pan. Smooth.
Sprinkle the “flaked” cheddar cheese on top.
Place in broiler or hot over for ten minutes or until cheddar cheese topping is browned.
Serve as a side dish to ham, bacon and eggs, shrimp, or “grunts.” Can also be cut into thin strips and deep-fried. Or let cool and serve with molasses.
Definition: Grunts are small baitfish. Roll lightly in flour and fry. For Collier County Grits and Grunts, add a splash of Kentucky bourbon to the batter. Eat whole (a la sardines) and serve with grits!
Do you have a favorite grits recipe? How does it vary from this one?