I have been wanting to post this recipe for a long time. It is one of my staples, and I am forever searching through my electronic files for it, using the search term – wait for it – “mushrooms,” because the original recipe had a braised mushroom topping.
But I don’t braise anything when I make this dish, and it has absolutely nothing to do with mushrooms. This Grits Casserole is yet another reminder of why I started this blog for myself – to get my tried-and-true recipes in order.
Want to know what’s difficult to photograph? A yellow square. Also, a series of yellow squares. This is one of the reasons it has taken me so long to get around to this post. But, it was time, whether or not I had the perfect image of this dish. Hang with me as I work through such #foodbloggerproblems.
So you remember grits, yes? The whole grain formerly-known-as “Something they eat in the South.” These guys:
Just add 3 wholesome cups of skim milk and two eggs, and you have yourself a hearty, filling, healthy base for any meal – or a breakfast on its own, in a pinch. An 8″x8″ pan lasts for several days. I am not above tossing a square in the microwave for 15 seconds on my way out the door, napkin in hand.
You can use 2% milk or whole milk if that’s your thing – I am sure either would just make this dish taste richer – but I am on a pretty constant stream of skim milk over here and tend to cook with the ingredients lowest in calories and fat that I can, without sacrificing flavor.
One important note to keep in mind when making this dish is that you want to make sure the milk doesn’t scald (= burn and stick to the bottom of the pan in a manner that seems to defy scientific law) when you are heating it. You want to bring the milk to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pan the whole time.
At this point, I need to make a confession. In the decade-plus that I have been cooking, I have seen warnings about the “eggs cooking” when added to something hot. I LAUGHED in all of these recipes’ faces. HA! That has never actually happened! Only losers somehow COOK their EGGS accidentally! Well, guess what happened to me on Saturday. Accidentally. Cooked. Eggs. I didn’t understand what all the (thousands of) little white pieces in my Grits Casserole were, until the truth sizzled over me. Now, don’t get me wrong, in this case, the bits of cooked eggs tasted just fine, and honestly didn’t look that bad, but I have proverbial egg on my face, and the actual (cooked) egg is in this dish. Lesson learned.
So, this said, the other step that requires a bit of coaching is incorporating the eggs. If the eggs are added when the milk-and-grits are too hot, they will start to cook. Believe me on this.
Best practice for tempering the eggs, or, slowly bringing up the temperature of the eggs without scrambling them: Whisk (or scramble with a fork) the eggs in a small or medium bowl. Add about .25 cup to .5 cup of the hot milk-and-grits mixture to the bowl, and whisk constantly until incorporated. Now you can add the tempered mixture back into the big pot, and whisk to incorporate.
It is a great side dish for a veggie-laden or meaty meal, if you are looking for a change-up from your stand-by rice, noodles, or quinoa. Top it with any sauce. Serving a buffet brunch? It is wonderful straight out of the oven – the middle can stay a little melty, and ooze over your eggs and whatnot. Place it in the oven as you are setting up other dishes or getting ready, or running the dog out for a quick walk (standard around here), and then pull it out when ready to serve, a la this Party Tip. Stir in some cheese before pouring into the pan, and I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. Microwave some bacon to accompany (I mean, microwave bacon to accompany anything, right?)
- 3 c skim milk
- .5 c regular grits (not quick-cooking)
- 1 t salt, optional
- 2 eggs, or 1 egg + 2 egg whites
- Heat oven to 400 and lightly oil an 8"x8" pan.
- Place the milk in a heavy medium pot, such as a dutch oven.
- Heat over medium-high heat, whisking slowly and constantly, scraping the bottom to make sure the milk doesn't stick and scald.
- When the milk boils, add the grits and salt if using, lower the heat, and continue to whisk.
- When it thickens a bit, turn off the heat and remove the pot from the burner.
- Time to temper the eggs! Whisk (or scramble with a fork) the eggs in a small or medium bowl. Add about .25 cup to .5 cup of the hot milk-and-grits mixture to the bowl, and whisk constantly until incorporated.
- Add the tempered eggs back to the larger pot, and whisk through to incorporate uniformly.
- Add the mixture to the 8"x8" pan, and place in the oven.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the middle springs back when you press it.
- Best served hot, but it's also great to have on hand during the week for breakfasts.
Recipe source: My electronic file doesn’t show the original source; an internet search reveals it was likely an October 2011 HuffPo Taste recipe that is no longer available online.