I can't think of a better example of comfort food than grits. Plain or fancy, grits are right up there with the best of them!! I've mentioned before that, even though I grew up in the south, I never had grits until I was an adult. The starch at my family table was potatoes--baked, boiled or mashed. Grits were never on the menu. Rice only appeared once or twice a year and always in the form of pudding.
When I worked at The Pentagon, Colonel R. (an aide to our Lieutenant General H.) had a cup of instant grits first thing every morning. He kept single-serving packets in his desk drawer. One day, upon finding out that I'd never tasted the grain, he prepared a cup for me. I found them tasteless and they dropped from my culinary list. They stayed off that list until we arrived in South Carolina where grits are almost as common as rice.
We had cause to celebrate last weekend. A dear friend had a birthday coming up and we wanted to fete him. When one is born toward the end of July, cool weather dishes are usually on the menu.
While this dish needs oven time (turn the ac lower), it is perfect for guests since it requires baking and resting. The cook can enjoy a glass of wine in the meantime.
As soon as the dish comes out of the oven, raise the temperature to 400 degrees, toss the shelled shrimp with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread in an even layer on a baking pan and pop into the oven for 8 to 10 minutes--until pink and curled. I used two pounds for four people. We had enough leftover for a light supper the next day.
Baked Garlic Cheese Grits
4 cups water
1cup regular grits
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 stick unsalted butter
2 green onions finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 eggs lightly beaten
3/4 cup milk
Chopped fresh parsley
1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan; add grits and salt. Simmer over medium heat, stirring often, until grits start to thicken. This will take 5 to 7 minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in the cheese, butter, onions and garlic. Cool about 15 minutes.
2. Whisk the eggs and milk together and stir into the grits. Pour into a buttered 2-quart casserole. Bake until golden and bubbly--about an hour. Let sit for 10 minutes while roasting the shrimp.
3. Spoon into large bowls and top with oven-roasted shrimp and sprinkle with parsley.