Tomato Grits

I love grits and this is coming from someone who had never tried them until after I graduated from college and moved to Mississippi.  At first I was a bit befuddled by them, do you eat them with salt and pepper? butter? sugar?  Finally I decided that straight up with a dash of hot sauce was going to be my way to eat this Southern breakfast favorite.

Last week the local newspaper decided to highlight grits in one of their Wednesday food articles.  When I saw this recipe I knew that I had finally found a way to serve grits for dinner.  The original recipe called for a whole (!) stick of butter to be stirred into the casserole.  Listen, I love butter just as much as the next person, but that seemed a tad bit ridiculous, so I left it out entirely.  If you think it would taste better with some butter, I would suggest using only a couple of tablespoons, as the casserole is rich enough already with the cheese and the sausage.  In addition, you can substitute a can of Ro-Tel, undrained, for the diced tomatoes and diced green chiles.  I also used reduced-fat sausage which only comes in a 12-ounce package.  If you use a 16-ounce package of regular sausage make sure to drain away any excess fat before adding the onions and garlic to the skillet.  This casserole would also make an excellent addition to a brunch menu.

2 1/4 cups milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup quick-cooking grits
1 medium onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (4-ounce) can diced green chiles, undrained
1 (12-ounce) package reduced-fat breakfast sausage (I like Jimmy Dean)
1 cup shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease an 8- or 9-inch square baking pan with non-stick cooking spray.

In a large saucepan, combine the milk, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil stirring often to keep the milk from burning on the bottom.  Slowly add in the grits, reduce the heat to low and simmer until thick and creamy, stirring constantly to keep the grits from sticking, about 3-5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and stir in the tomatoes and green chiles.  Set aside.

In a skillet over medium heat add the sausage and cook while crumbling until no longer pink.  Add the onions and garlic and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the sausage mixture to the grits and stir until well combined.  Pour the grits into the prepared baking pan.  Top with cheese and bake until hot and bubbly around the edges, 25-30 minutes.

serves 4-6

adapted from The Lodge Cast Iron Cookbook: A Treasury of Timeless, Delicious Recipes by The Lodge Company

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