For some reason, we have a craving for grits today, so we thought we’d look at a couple of ways to serve them, and address the question, “What’s the difference between grits and polenta?”
Although there are purists who would consider this sacrilege, grits, polenta and cornmeal are all basically the same thing; dried kernels of corn ground into different sizes. Purists aver that real Southern grits are made from hominy, corn kernels that have been treated in an alkali solution of lime or lye. This process removes the yellow hull of the corn as well as the germ, the part of the plant that allows the corn to reproduce, leaving just the endosperm or starch. The white kernels, now devoid of the nutritional benefits of the germ and the beneficial fibre of the hull are then dried, and ground into hominy grits, a creamier texture than regular grits as it is all starch.
Cornmeal that is used for cornbread, muffins and fried green tomatoes is usually a fine grind, whereas polenta is a medium grind that makes a smooth, creamy dish and grits are the coarsest grind, resulting in a side dish that is a little more toothsome and can stand on its own or as a starchy vehicle to house a variety of flavours. A side dish of grits is one of the starch staples in the southern U.S., and appear as a standard side dish for both breakfast, -where it is often served like a porridge, mixed with milk and sweetened with honey and other sweet flavourings- and dinner too, where it is usually served with butter and simply seasoned with salt and pepper, or mixed with cheese, chopped peppers and other savoury embellishments.
In the southern states, prepared boxes of grits in numerous flavours and varieties line the shelves, but preparing them from scratch yourself is no more complicated than making a pot of oatmeal or cream of wheat. Here is a straightforward recipe from Paula Dean for basic grits, and from there you can jazz them up however you like.(It’s not often that we refer to Ms Dean for recipes, but we’ll give her this one). Served withspicy shrimp and Andouille sausage you have one of the South’s all time comfort food, perfect for a cool autumn night in the great white north.