I know you weren’t thinking a milkshake was the only thing I made Toby for his birthday. I wanted to make a special breakfast, lunch and dinner. The milkshakes — with some Dixie Chili coneys — were for lunch. And he wanted to grill for dinner, so I made some sides and a pie (which I will post soon). But I wasn’t sure what to make for breakfast.
Then, the morning before Toby’s birthday, I turned on Good Eats. Alton Brown was lighting various things on fire… and making shrimp and grits. Toby loves shrimp and grits. But I am deathly allergic to shellfish, so I wasn’t sure that cooking shrimp was the best plan.
What I can eat (but hadn’t made before) is my mother-in-law’s grits casserole.
Here’s the thing about grits: I had never had them before college. My little sis in my sorority thought that was a disgrace. So she took me to Waffle House (this was Athens, Ga., remember — Georgia basically has one Waffle House for every 100 people) and made me taste grits.
They were disgusting.
I didn’t really plan to ever have grits again. But then, the first time I went to Kentucky to meet Toby’s family, his mom made this grits casserole. I was a little worried, but I obviously had to try it. And… it was awesome. It bears no resemblance to the gooey, runny, tasteless mess I had at WaHo.
These grits are cheesy, buttery, a little garlicky and not runny at all. And the crushed corn flakes give them a bit of crunch. This is definitely not diet food, but it’s really good.
The prep only takes about 15-20 minutes, but you will need to bake the casserole for about an hour and 15 minutes. You also will want to let it cool a little. It won’t hold in solid squares while it’s still hot (which is OK), but the leftovers will firm up.
I know there are some of you out there (like my little sis) who like Waffle House grits. Maybe if I had grown up in the South, I would like them, too. But either way, I think you’ll like these grits. But you should probably eat some fruit with them. And maybe run 5 miles afterward.
Cheesy grits casserole (Adapted slightly from Jane Hlad) Serves 8-10
4 1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup grits
1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 pound shredded cheddar cheese
2 cloves garlic
2/3 cup milk
Dash of Tabasco
2 cups cornflakes
Dash of paprika
Preheat oven to 350. Pour cornflakes into a large Ziploc bag and use a rolling pin or heavy object to crush the cereal.
Bring water to a boil in a medium pan, then add salt and slowly add grits. Turn heat down a bit (to medium-high). Stir constantly for 3-5 minutes , then remove from heat.
Add 1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter, cheese and minced garlic and stir.
Beat eggs and add milk, then add mixture to the grits. Add a dash or two of the hot sauce and mix well.
Butter a 2 1/2 quart casserole dish and pour the grits mixture in. Cut the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter into small pieces and use to dot top of grits mixture, then sprinkle crushed cornflakes over the top. Sprinkle a little paprika or cayenne pepper over the cornflakes.
Bake for an hour, then check casserole. Top should be browned and a toothpick inserted in the center should could out clean. If not, bake an additional 15 minutes and check again.
Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes, then cut into squares and serve.