Amy is frequently dining at the Atlanta airport during one layover or other and on one particular morning a few years ago she text me, “Having grits for breakfast but of course I had to ask them not to add any cheese.” My Southern sensitivities were immediately appalled at her dastardly display of bad manners and in my response text I exclaimed, “You asked them to do what?!?!” What followed was a back and forth soft argument between “it’s just grits, T” and “Only a Yankee would say ‘just grits’!” for the better part of the morning. There are many, many things about the South that I am in absolute disagreement with but the cuisine, along with the beautiful countryside, is something I still feel an immense about of pride for. I wouldn’t go to Massachusetts and order my fried fish without beer batter just like I wouldn’t go to Vermont and use some generic table syrup instead of the local Grade B Maple. So how could my dearly beloved wife think it’s okay to order grits in Atlanta, Georgia without cheese? I set out to educate her, whether she wanted the lesson or not, on the importance of respecting local cuisines and the instant connection that can be found when you appreciate a different way of life, or in this case, a different bowl of grits. She grew up eating her hot cereal sweet, and I grew up eating it savory. It took a bit of coaxing but she did finally try a bowl of cheese grits. Now, just like me, she gets a craving for them and I’m all too pleased to take full credit for her appreciation of this simple, yet delicious Southern staple.
Cheese Grits with Sunny Side Up Egg, Fresh Bacon Bits, and Watercress
1 cup Hominy Grits
3 cups water or stock
1 tab of butter
1/2 cup of Sharp Cheddar, shredded
2 local, farm fresh eggs
3 strips of bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 generous handfuls of watercress
Salt and Pepper to taste
Over medium high flame, bring the water and salt to a boil. Whisk in the grits and bring back to a boil. Once boiling reduce heat and whisk frequently until thickened about 15 minutes. Once thickened, remove from heat and stir in the butter, cheese, and pepper. Adjust salt if needed. Set aside. In a non-stick skillet over medium flame, fry the eggs until the whites are set but the yoke is still soft. You may cook longer if desired. Once the egg whites are set, turn off the flame and begin to assemble the grits. Divide the grits into two bowls, top each with one Sunny Side Up egg, the crumbled bacon bits and watercress. Dress with additional fresh cracked black pepper if desired. Serve immediately.
Note: this is a traditional Southern breakfast but could just as easily be enjoyed as a quick weeknight dinner or as a beautiful, Sunday brunch.