Southern food – the fried chicken, the gravy, the biscuits – can be rather involved. Grits are an exception. Good grits – the real thing, ground between cool stones instead of hot, industrial rollers – are a thing of unadorned beauty. While Red Mill and other widely-available grits are solid enough, I get mine from the College of the Ozarks (the Old Mill of Guilford in North Carolina is as good or better). Simmered slowly and stirred often, true grits give off an unforgettable aroma of toasted corn. They accept any accoutrements or none and pair with everything. And as the (excellent, much-recommended) Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook points out, grits made this way are as “as dramatic as tasting freshly ground coffee for the first time if all you’ve known is instant.”
2 cups whole milk
2 cups water
1 cup stone-ground grits
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, plus more to taste
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1. Pour the milk and water into a 2 quart saucepan, cover, and turn the heat to medium-high. When the milk mixture boils (about 5 minutes), uncover the pot, add the grits and salt, and reduce the heat to medium. Stir constantly until the grits are the consistency of this soup and release a fragrant sweet-corn perfume, about 8 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring every 2 to 3 minutes, about about 20 minutes, until the grits thicken and fall lazily from the end of the spoon. Cook about 15 minutes more, stirring constantly to prevent the grits from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
2. When the grits are creamy and fluffy and soft,, turn off the heat, add the pepper and butter, and stir to incorporate. Season to taste with salt and pepper, if desired, and serve immediately.