Story time! So I'm feeling under the weather this weekend. I thought I was getting another wave of allergies, but then my throat started to feel sore, and pretty soon I was feeling weak and mildly feverish. I realized that I must have a cold of some sort. Since I had slept my way through most of Friday night, I woke up at around midnight thinking about what I could make for a late late dinner / snack that wouldn't drain me of all my energy.
The fridge is mostly empty since I haven't gone grocery shopping in a while. But in my cupboard I had an unopened bag of fine ground corn meal that I bought back when I was getting my wisdom tooth out and thinking of making grits. Well I never did get around to using it, and now grits sounded pretty good to me. Looking online for some good recipes, I noticed that most of them were savory grits, with cheese, gravy, sausage, etc. Unfortunately for me, my fridge was so empty that I didn't even have the usual milk that goes into grits. I did, however, have a single slice of American cheese and a little bit of spam. I discussed the prospect of making spam grits with my boyfriend, who thought it sounded gross and could not find a single recipe for it online. I personally thought I could invent a really cool spam grits dish, but alas, when I went to prepare it, I noticed that my spam was spoiled. Great.
So by this point I was starving to death and really annoyed that I had water boiling for my grits, but nothing to put in it. Finally, I decided that I would make a light grits with garlic and that one slice of cheese, and eat it topped with canned chili, which would provide most of the flavor. I guess in that sense it sort of takes on the role of polenta haha. So let me tell you, this was an exercise in persistence. When my water was at a full boil, I poured in all the corn meal I was going to use, at once, before reaching for tongs to stir with. Bad idea. That corn meal puffed up in a matter of seconds, absorbing all the water and forming these giant clumps with dry corn meal still in the middle. No matter how hard I stirred it and added water to thin it out, the messy clump in the pot was just not edible. So down the garbage disposal it went…
The second time I got smarter and turned down the heat before slowly adding the corn meal while stirring, and everything came out just fine – it was nice and smooth, with no clumps. Plus, my favorite part is that using finely ground corn meal shortened the cooking time dramatically. I was done in just 10 minutes! Now that's a good fast meal I could handle any day :) It's also relatively healthy too, since I don't use any milk or cream for the grits, and the chili is quite good for you with all its beans. I used canned chili here for convenience, but I'm sure it would be even better with home-made chili, if you have the patience that is!
Chili-topped Garlic Cheese Grits (serves 2)
1/2 cup finely ground corn meal (it's like a powder rather than little gritty pieces)
2 cups water
1 slice American cheese
1 pat salted butter
onion powder, garlic powder, and salt to taste
chopped raw onion for garnish
1. Bring 2 cups water to boil in a small pot. Reduce heat to low.
2. Slowly add the corn meal to the water, while stirring constantly with a whisk to avoid lumps.
3. Cook on low for about 7-10 minutes, stirring often, and adding water as necessary to thin out the grits to your desired consistency (I prefer mine to be on the creamy, lightly viscous side). They absorb a lot of water so I think I added maybe an extra cup's worth of water before I reached a nice consistency. Season with onion powder, garlic powder, and salt to taste.
4. When grits is finished cooking, stir in a pat of butter and the slice of cheese, torn to pieces, stirring until melted and incorporated. Serve immediately, topped with warm canned chili and garnished with freshly chopped onions if desired.