Smoky chipotle-cheddar grits: 59 cents/serving

Anyone following the national weather lately may have noticed a prediction of SNOWMAGEDDON!!!! for the Pacific Northwest. Blizzards! Freezing temperatures! FEET OF SNOW! I was all prepared for this to be another load of hyperbolic nonsense (as is usually confirmed by this informative website), but I looked out the window after I got home from work last night and, lo and behold, it was snowing. It looked to be up to 3 inches or so (which actually qualifies as FEET OF SNOW! for Portland) by the time I went to bed, and by the time I got up it had brought down a small tree in the backyard. It’s raining now and starting to break up the snow a bit, but still, the almost constant focus on the weather has been exhausting—delayed school openings, chained-up buses going 25 mph, talkative strangers overjoyed at the materialization of a universal conversation topic. At this point you may be asking yourself, What does this all have to do with grits?

Well…nothing exactly. Other than the fact that grits remind one of warmer climes and make a great last-minute dish for weather-weary folks (such as myself) that can be thrown together with stuff you probably already have in the freezer and any kind of cheese. Gouda is great and so is cheddar, but Jack would work as well. Tack on a side salad and you can have dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes.

As below this makes 6 generous servings. If you pack the leftovers in a plastic-wrap-lined loaf pan the night before, you can invert it, slice it, and fry the slices à la polenta for breakfast—a couple slices will probably only be about 25 cents.

• 1 1/2 cups quick-cooking grits (look for these in bulk): 45 cents
• 2 T butter: 12 cents
• 8 oz. cheese (Gouda or sharp cheddar is best, but Jack would work too), grated: $2
• 1 onion, chopped: 25 cents
• 2 cups corn kernels (I used the remainder of a bag of corn kernels I had left over from an ill-fated corncob wine experiment…I used the rest for sweet potato, corn & jalapeno bisque): 20 cents
• 1 T chopped chipotle chile in adobo (the bagged contents of a can of this keep in your freezer indefinitely; just cut off a chunk when you need some), finely chopped: 10 cents
• 2 cups whole milk: 32 cents
• Salt & pepper to taste: 2 cents
• Chopped cilantro (about 1/6 of a 49-cent bunch): 8 cents
TOTAL: $3.54/6 = 59 cents/serving 

Melt the butter in a large, wide pot over medium heat, add the onion, corn, and a pinch of salt and pepper, and sauté until onion is translucent, about 5-6 minutes. Add the 2 cups of milk and 5 cups of water, bring to a boil. Slowly add the grits, stirring constantly.

Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring often, for about 15 minutes, or until grits are very thick and creamy (They will get quite thick, so don’t be alarmed). Adjust seasoning to taste. Stir in the chipotle and then the cheese, stirring until cheese melts. Serve topped with chipped cilantro. (Use more cilantro than I did in the picture at the top; I went easy so everything could be seen in the picture.)

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