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Puffed Garlic-Cheese Grits

December 5, 2009

Wow, it’s been awhile. My November schedule was completely booked. First, I finished costuming the fall production at Calvin College. Then, Justin and I went on a lovely vacation to the South where we had some terrific food experiences.

One of the most unique was a serindipious visit to Logan Turnpike Mill, a local mill just outside Blairsville Georgia. It was a cold, rainy day. Justin & I had just finished hiking to the top of Brasstown Bald, the hightest point in Georgia. (Click here to see the webcam view from the top of the mountain.)

On our way back to Blue Ridge, we passed a mill. We turned around and went back.  There, I purchased five pounds of grits, five pounds of cornmeal, and five pounds of three-grain pancake mix. The miller rang me up at the register. He said they try to get their corn and grains as locally as possible. “Right now, I’m grinding corn from South Carolina,” he said. “It’s been too wet in Georgia to harvest corn.” He was right.

It’s all good, but the cornmeal is out of this world. And you can order it directly from them; they ship it out the next day.

Logan Turnpike Mill explains on their website why their flours are so good:

“Our stone grinding process utilizes the whole grain. Nothing is removed. We also grind at a much lower temperature than the high-speed roller mills used today in commercial milling. Keeping the grains cool does not destroy the heat sensitive nutrients and makes for a much more flavorful and healthy product.”

This is why freshly ground grains must be kept in the refrigerator or the freezer; the oils will go rancid.

This is probably also why you may not like cornmeal that much. Most of what is sold at the grocery store is not whole and has not been kept cool. Good cornmeal is slightly sweet and it tastes kind of good to put a little on your finger and eat it. Industrial cornmeal is gross. Yes, even Bob’s Mill brand.

What will I do with all my Georgia-local grains? Well, I’ll be posting some ideas for awhile. The following is a favorite of mine. I’ve tried a lot of different grits for this recipe–and even polenta in a pinch–and it’s all worked out, but high-quality grits are definitely a better choice. I have a lot of grits casserole recipes, but I’m keen on this one because it doesn’t use up all the milk in the refrigerator nor does it call for sausage. Feel free to substitute whatever cheeses you have on hand. Pretty much anything (as long as you like it) will work.

Northerners need to learn to eat grits. Grits are like porrage, only they are eaten with savory accompaniments–salt, pepper, cheese, sausage. My dad says that the first time he tried grits at his southern college (he’s from Ohio), he thought it was cream of wheat and he put sugar on them. It works, but it’s not authentic.

These are.

Puffed Garlic-Cheese Grits

2 T. butter

1 T. + 1 t. minced garlic

4 C. water

3/4 t. salt

1/2 t. black pepper

3/4 t. dry mustard powder

1/8-1/4 t. ground red pepper

1 C grits, uncooked

1 1/4 C. shredded sharp Cheddar (In Canada, they call “sharp cheddar” “old cheddar”.)

1/2 C. shredded mozzarella cheese

1/2 t. cream of tartar

Dash hot sauce. Or more.

Lightly butter a shallow, 2-quart casserole dish (such as a square Pyrex pan). Set aside. Preheat oven to 400.

Melt 2 T. buter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Saute’ garlic until golden. Add water, salt, and blck pepper; bring to a boil and stir in mustard & red pepper. Gradually, stir in grits; return to boil. Reduce heat, cover, and cook about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. (Note: some grits will cook much faster than this. Keep watch. You’ll know when they’re done.) Remove from heat and stir in cheeses and egg yolks. Transfer all to a large bowl; set aside.

Beat egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy. Add hot sauce and beat until stiff peaks form. Gently fold into grits. Pour into prepared casserole pan. Bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes until grits are puffed and golden. Serve immediately. Give this recipe to those who ask for it.

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