Dinner Grits made with Wine and Cheese


Dinner Grits made with Wine and Cheese

Dinner grits, as opposed to simple breakfast grits that go with eggs, are typically seasoned – lightly -- with herbs and spices, often contain cheese, and sometimes white wine, cream, or even chicken broth. They serve well as a side dish or base for the meal, such as in the Carolina Low Country specialty, “Shrimp and Grits.” They do very well along side, or under, grilled or roasted meats or fancy vegetable dishes. Grits have the added advantage of being gluten-free, unlike pasta or bread, and can be made vegan if desired.

Dinner grits as part of Shrimp and Grits

Serving local stone-ground grits for dinner became popular in upscale “farm-to-table” and “locavore” restaurants in the South over the past few decades. But in fact, Polenta, a very similar seasoned heavy porridge of ground corn has been used for centuries as a side dish and pasta substitute in northeastern Italy and adjacent countries. (Known as “Mamaliga,” cornmeal porridge, especially when chilled then cut and baked or grilled, is considered the national dish of Romania.) In turn, Polenta itself goes back to ancient Roman times when “Pulmentum,” as it was called in Latin, was a staple made from various grains, ground and boiled, well before corn was introduced to Europe from the Americas.

At our restaurant we serve “boats” of seasoned grits topped with the customer’s choice of sausage, bacon, fried green tomatoes, and the like, and finished with cheese, various sauces and garnishes. My recipe is slightly fancier than our restaurant version and is aimed for dinner use.

The recipe uses stone-ground or other grits that are simply ground corn. “Hominy” grits, which are the common variety used for breakfast, are ground from lye-treated corn, cook somewhat faster. Hominy grits, such as Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben’s, or store brand, will work for this recipe, though I don’t find them as interesting.

For this dish, cook the grits and keep them warm while preparing the accompaniment. This is easily done by putting the pan, covered, in a larger pan of simmering water, or using a crock pot on warm setting -- or a chafing dish for fancy. The recipe serves four to six people.


2 cups milk or chicken broth

2 cups water

1/4 cup white wine

1/4 cup cream

1 cup stone-ground or other grits

1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Large pinch ground celery (or 1/8 teaspoon celery salt)

Large pinch cayenne

Large pinch nutmeg

2 tablespoons cheddar or parmesan cheese


In a heavy pan, bring milk or broth, water, wine and cream to a boil, being careful the mixture doesn’t boil over. Meanwhile, measure out  the grits and dry seasonings into a bowl.

When the liquid boils, stirring constantly with wooden spoon or spatula, add grits mixture in a small stream. Continue to stir constantly for a minute, scraping the bottom of the pan well. Reduce heat to medium and stir frequently as grits begin to thicken, 3-4 minutes. Reduce heat to lowest setting and simmer the mixture, covered but stirring frequently, until grits are becoming tender, 20 minutes or more.

Stir in cheese. Taste, and add a little salt if necessary. Continue to simmer for a minute, then keep the mixture warm on the lowest stove setting (or place pot in a larger pan on the stove with an inch of boiling water to serve as a hot water bath, or use a crock pot on the “warm” setting) until ready to serve, stirring from time to time. The longer the grits simmer the better. If they become too thick or dry, add a little water.

To serve, spread grits in a thick puddle on a platter or individual plates. Spoon the topping partially over them. Garnish, if desired, with minced parsley.

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