A kind of carbo-licious porridge made from dried and coarsely ground corn, grits are to Southern cuisine what potatoes are to Northern cuisine — a deeply satisfying staple. Like squash, tomatoes and deep-pit barbecuing, grits came to define Southern cooking via the cuisines of such southeast American Indian tribes as the Caddo, Choctaw and Seminole.
These days we’re starting to see grits all over the country. Often they’ll show up at breakfast seasoned with salt and pepper, topped with a pat of butter and nestled alongside some bacon and eggs. They’re also a signature element in Shrimp and Grits, one of the succulent delights of the cuisine of coastal South Carolina and Georgia, which has also migrated widely.
But wonderful as they are, grits can be a chore — if not slightly dangerous — to make. I’m speaking of regular old-fashioned stone-ground grits, which trump “quick grits” and “instant grits” in both flavor and texture. Made the usual way, old-fashioned grits need to be stirred relentlessly to avoid clumping. You also have to handle with care; this hot mush has a tendency to bubble up and burn the cook.
Here’s a way to avoid those problems: Make it in the oven instead of on the stovetop. You simply combine the grits and the liquid in a ceramic pie dish (a total of 10 minutes hands-on time) and pop it into the oven for 45 to 50 minutes. Then stir in the flavorings — sharp cheddar cheese, in this case — and it’s done. How easy is that?
One note, though. The ceramic pie plate (or any shallow ceramic baking dish with the same capacity) is key. Pie plates made of metal or glass do not conduct heat as effectively. Sara Moulton, AP
Cheesy baked grits
START TO FINISH:
1 hour, 5 minutes (10 active)
Servings: 4 to 6
2 1/2 cups water combined with either 2 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken broth or 5 cups water
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup grits (not quick-cooking)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 ounces grated sharp cheddar
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
HOW TO COOK IT
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Stir together the water, butter, grits and salt (if using salted vegetable or chicken stock, do not add salt) in a 1-quart ceramic pie plate set on a rimmed sheet pan. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven, uncovered, for 50 minutes. Remove from the oven and preheat the broiler. Stir in three-quarters of the cheese, stirring until melted. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper if needed. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top and put the grits on a shelf in the upper third of the oven, under the broiler until nicely browned. Serve right away.
Nutrition information per serving: 196 calories; 114 calories from fat; 13 g fat (7 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 37 mg cholesterol; 708 mg sodium; 11 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 0 g sugar; 9 g protein.
Editor’s Note: Sara Moulton is host of public television’s “Sara’s Weeknight Meals.” She was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years and spent a decade hosting several Food Network shows, including “Cooking Live.” Her latest cookbook is “Home Cooking 101.”
Nestle earnings weighed down by weak food pricing
Pressure on food prices globally weighed on the earnings of consumer goods giant Nestle, which yesterday said it would step up its drive to cut costs.
The company based in Vevey, Switzerland, reported a 6 percent drop in net profit to 8.53 billion Swiss francs (USD
8.53 billion), with double-digit declines at its Chinese unit dragging on growth. Revenue barely rose, by 0.8 percent to 89.47 billion francs.
CEO Mark Schneider said the company behind Maggi noodles, Stouffer’s frozen foods and KitKat chocolate bars plans to increase restructuring costs “considerably” this year. He did not specify how those costs would increase, but alluded to the company’s history of finding efficiencies when needed.
Nestle, which does not break out earnings by quarter, said that organic growth, which excludes the impact of acquisitions, rose 3.2 percent last year, at the low end of its expectations. It is expected to rise 2 to 4 percent this year.
Consumer goods companies have been squeezed in recent years by low inflation, which has prevented them from charging higher prices. At the same time, the costs of some raw materials have increased.
Pricing saw some improvement in late 2016, and is expected to get better this year, Nestle said.
“2016: I think the punchline was organic growth was, certainly, for our company at the higher end of industry,” Schneider told reporters. “But it did come in — there’s no beating around the bush — at the lower end of our expectations.”
Organic growth was strongest in the Americas, up 4.2 percent. Nestle rode currency devaluations in Latin America to increase prices there, with double-digit growth in KitKat and Nestle Dulce Gusto. It said performance in U.S confectionary was “disappointing,” though, citing competition and low growth in mainstream chocolate.
Nestle pointed to a “double-digit decline” of its Yinlu food unit in China, where the company has cited tough price pressures. “Several initiatives to turn around the business are in place and stabilisation is expected in 2017,” the Swiss company said.
The arrival of Schneider, a former health care industry executive and Nestle’s first CEO to come from outside the company in 95 years, has aimed to help move the food and drinks giant evolve into a nutrition, health and wellness business.
He cited “a time of change in the consumer goods industry” and said focusing on organic growth would be “the long-term value driver for our company.”
Schneider defended frozen foods as a core Nestle business, rejecting claims that they necessarily meant “bad” food. He also said its confectionary line didn’t conflict with Nestle’s increased focus on nutrition, saying people are “creatures open to indulgence.”
Nestle said its board will propose a dividend of 2.30 francs per share at its April annual general meeting.