Goodness Gracious, Grits!

Grits. Just the sound of the word brings a warm feeling across the South.

The topic of grits is something of a sacred cow among Southern cooks and chefs. Grits are a staple in many rural Southern homes, and many conversations revolve around the subject. There’s a lot of passion and opinion about the revered grits. We’re a part this Southern foodway history. We have a deep affinity for our beloved grits, and this post is to celebrate them! Be sure to share your own history about this most Southern of foods on our facebook (Greensboro or Cary) or instagram (Greensboro or Cary) pages.

Add a dollop of butter and lots of heavy cream, smother them in cheese or dress them up with bacon, shrimp or red-eye gravy. You would think there’s not much you can do to mess up a bowl of grits—but you can. True Southern grits aficionados will tell you that though there are thousands of recipes, it’s rarely the recipe that makes the grits. It’s the love you put into standing there, stirring the pot: You know you can’t walk away from a pot of cooking grits very long or they stick to the bottom of the pan and scorch (we’ve all done it!). It’s also the right pot plus the right stove temperature (electric or gas factors into this as well). It’s taken some folks nearly a lifetime to get it right.

While it may not seem there are many things more inherently Southern than grits, they were originally a Native American food. History of Grits tells us that Sir Walter Raleigh and his men were likely offered a dish much like today’s grits in 1584 by Native Americans local to what’s now Roanoke, Virginia.

At Lucky’s we take pride in our grits, whether they are deep-fried, twice-baked or just plain creamy. We hope our friends who want to give grits a try for the first time—and those who are already fans—stop by to taste our versions. We don’t just serve them at brunch, you can get them at lunch and dinner too!

As venerable as their history is, our Deep Fried Grit Cakes were inspired a little closer to home (and just a bit more recently!). As Nancy King Quaintance’s mother, Joan King, tells it, laughing:

“On our honeymoon at Holden Beach, I was going to make my first meal. Jim asked me to make grits with dinner, but I didn’t know how to make them and the bag of grits didn’t come with directions. I thought to myself, oh this will be easy, just make them like rice. In the process of learning, I made the mistake of adding way too many grits and not enough water, and Jim had no idea either (we were very young when we got married). Not only did I end up with a LOT of leftover grits, the grits ended up all over the ceiling, walls and cabinets as they bubbled everywhere! There were pots and pots of grits leftover. When I wondered what to do with them all, Jim told me about how his Aunt Fanny refrigerated leftover grits and used them the next day to make grits cakes.”

In fact, Jim King’s family had a long tradition of grits-based cuisine, from the standard porridge-like preparation to fried grits cakes— a family favorite known today as “Fanny Grits.” In times of hardship from the Civil War though the Great Depression, grits—like rice and potatoes—were an inexpensive, filling staple in kitchens across the Deep South. Frugal cooks would not waste any leftovers, but instead re-purpose them in new dishes later the same day or the next.

The most recent addition to the family’s recipe history is courtesy of the late Fanny Nicholson, who was one of Nancy King Quaintance’s grandfather’s cousins—that’s a mouth full. Reportedly a fantastic cook, Fanny concocted her special soufflé-like grits recipe as a way to use leftovers and stretch supplies longer for a large extended family. The recipe is still a staple of King family meals and a frequent and beloved side dish at family gatherings.

Let us note that the Old Mill of Guilford, the local grist mill that we get our grits from, has been around since 1767. The Old Mill has been operating since the 1970s, making it a true Guilford County icon. Folks driving north on Highway 68 through Oak Ridge, NC, can see the mill’s big red waterwheel spinning out in front, and visitors are always welcome. It’s worth a trip up the road to see how the Old Mill operates and pick up some flour, cornmeal, pancake mix or other delectable from the store there. (Old Mill products also are available all over town, too, at places like the Greensboro Farmers Curb Market.)

Now that you know where to get your grits in Guilford County, what do you do with them? Here are a couple of recipes, from our kitchen to yours. We’ll start with our basic recipe for Creamy Yellow Grits, then show you how to deep-fry them or serve them up with shrimp in a way that’ll have the whole neighborhood coming over for a taste!  (And if you’re feeling experimental, why not try the aforementioned Fanny Grits. Yes, they are that delicious!)

Lucky 32 Creamy Yellow Grits

  • 12 fl. oz. heavy whipping cream
  • 3 c. water
  • ¾ stick butter
  • ¾ tsp. salt (or to taste)
  • 1/8 tsp. cracked black pepper (or to taste)
  • 1 c. yellow grits
  • ½ c. grated sharp cheddar cheese

Add cream, water, butter, salt and pepper to sauce pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and stir in the grits. Stir with wire whisk continuously to keep grits from clumping up. Once all the grits are blended, continue to stir for 2-3 minutes. Reduce heat and cook for about 15- 20 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cheddar cheese.

makes 1 quart

Shrimp and Grits wild-caught American shrimp, andouille sausage, onions and tasso ham gravy over Old Mill of Guilford grits

Lucky 32 Shrimp and Grits

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil or butter
  • 4 tbsp. chopped green onions
  • 1¾ lbs. large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • ¾ lb. Andouille sausage
  • 1¼ c. Tasso Gravy (see recipe below)
  • Creamy Grits (see recipe above)

Heat oil in sauté pan, then sauté half of the green onion. Add sausage, cook, then add shrimp and cook until done. Add Tasso Gravy, tossing to coat and heat all the way through. Place serving of hot Creamy Grits in pasta bowls and pour a portion of the shrimp mixture over the grits. Garnish each dish with remaining green onions.

makes 4 servings

Lucky 32 Tasso Gravy

  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • ¼ c. diced onions
  • ½ tsp. thyme
  • 1 c. Tasso ham – diced
  • ½ tsp. salt (or to taste)
  • 1 c. chicken stock
  • ¼ c. roux (make with equal parts butter and flour: melt butter in small pan, add flour, stir to thicken, remove from heat)
  • 1 tsp. chopped parsley (optional)

Melt butter, then add onions and thyme, sautéing gently until very soft and caramelized. Add Tasso and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring regularly to distribute seasoning. Add chicken stock and salt, bring to simmer, then cook 10 minutes. Stir in roux and simmer 10 more minutes. Remove from heat, stir in parsley. Serve.

Lucky 32 Deep Fried Grit Cakes

  • 2 c. chicken stock
  • 1 c. heavy cream
  • 1½ tbsp. butter
  • 1 c. stone ground grits
  • 1 c. grated cheddar cheese
  • 3 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese
  • 1-2 eggs, beaten (1 large or 2 small)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/4 c. cornmeal
  • 1/4 c. flour
  • 1/2 tbsp. Cajun spices
  • oil for deep frying

In a large sauce pot, bring chicken stock, heavy cream and butter to a boil. Stir in grits and reduce to medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until grits are cooked and liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and stir in cheeses, beaten eggs, salt and pepper. Spread mixture onto a greased sheet pan or cookie sheet and cool completely. Grits may be refrigerated overnight. When cooled, cut grits into desired shape and set aside. Meanwhile, blend cornmeal, flour and Cajun spices in a shallow baking dish. Heat oil for deep frying to 350º F. Dredge grit cakes in cornmeal mixture and fry in hot oil until brown on both sides. Drain fried grits on paper towels.

King Family “Fanny Grits” Recipe

  • 1 – 1½ c. plain cooked grits (leftovers or freshly made)
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ to 1 c. of milk
  • salt
  • approx. 1/2 c. Cheddar or other cheese of your choice

Beat eggs with a beater and add a pinch or two of salt, then add in the grits. The mixture should have a consistency similar to pancake batter. If you want to add cheese, add grated cheese. Pour into a casserole dish and bake as you would a soufflé in a slow oven (around 325º F) until just set. The mixture will puff up, then collapse while cooling.

Makes 4-6 servings as a side dish

Disclaimer: All our recipes were originally designed for much larger batch size. This recipe has been reduced – but not tested at this scale. Please adjust as to your taste and portion size.

© 1989-2018. This recipe is the property of Quaintance-Weaver Restaurants, LLC. Unauthorized commercial use is forbidden.

For more about our seasonal recipes, see our current menu at Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen and our Blog Recipe Index. 

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