So, a couple of years ago, on this very blog, I made a statement I’d like to retract: “I don’t cook grits with milk or cream–I just don’t see the need.” You see, I was stuck then on the notion that grits cooked in chicken broth were the most flavorful and avoided scalding milk in my favorite pot, even though my friends were all telling me that cooking grits in milk was the way to go. Eventually, I tasted several versions of grits that were so creamy and luxurious, I had to know how they were prepared, and the answer usually came back as “cooked in milk.” So now, I’m a milk convert. Whenever I happen to eat breakfast at a restaurant that serves watery, thin grits, I get cranky and insist that they should be doing the milk thing too. And now I have an even richer, more wonderful addition to my favorite grits: mascarpone cheese. We were introduced to mascarpone cheese grits at La Provence in late May, and they were a dreamy revelation of what grits could be. Mascarpone is a thick Italian cream cheese that’s not as salty as our usual cream cheese–it’s more like a consolidated version of ricotta. In fact, it tastes a lot like unsalted butter to me, and it melts as easily into the hot grits as butter would.
Served under saucy shrimp or a velvety pork shoulder, these grits are standout dinner fare, but they can also find their place alongside bacon and eggs, or a pork chop, or fried chicken. I like a good dose of pepper, so I use a lot of black pepper and Tabasco sauce. These taste fancy, but are still humble in appearance…so you can really serve them to anyone, with anything, at any time. And you should.
- 3½ cups lowfat or whole milk
- 1½ cups water
- 1 cup old-fashioned grits (not instant or quick)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup mascarpone cheese
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
- 2 teaspoons Tabasco
- In a medium saucepan, bring the water and milk to a simmer over medium heat. Stir from time to time to avoid scalding the milk.
- When the liquid simmers, stir in the grits and salt. Return to a simmer, stirring constantly, then reduce heat to low and cover the pot. Simmer on low heat for about 20 minutes, stirring every few minutes to prevent lumps. Test grits to make sure they're tender, and if not, keep cooking.
- Turn off the heat and stir in the mascarpone, pepper, and Tabasco until everything is melted and uniformly creamy. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.