Have you ever wondered where that fine line is between dinner and dessert? What’s the absolute closest you can get to a decadent meal without anyone bothering you about “spoiling your dinner”? I’ll save you some guessing. It’s these Fancy Grits.
My grandmother’s cheese grits were the stuff of Southern legend. Seemingly straight out of a 1950’s housewife’s cookbook, they were such a simple, salty pleasure on our family dinner table Monday nights while growing up. Unassuming starchy, cheesy goodness, I always made sure to get a double (sometimes triple) scoop.
It’s no wonder I regularly want cheese grits now as an adult too. These Fancy Grits fit the bill. A concoction I made when I was a super single mom on a shoestring budget, I wanted a little bit of home and a little bit of fine dining all in one meal. I added a few special ingredients to make those legendary grits more substantial and satisfying. That way, (I hoped) I could make an entire meal out of it without getting any side eye. Lo and behold, Fancy Grits have found a permanent place on our menu.
The best thing about Fancy Grits? They aren’t so fancy as to be offputting. They can be dressed up or dressed down. Whipped together for a date night in or for cozying up with pajamas and Netflix. Breakfast, lunch or dinner- you decide!
Science of Starchy Goodness
When you take grits out of the pantry, you might be wondering how they could ever be creamy. With some heat applied, the cooking liquid moves into the starchy granules like an eager tenant, making them soft and plump. As I’ve previously written, a more flavorful liquid will yield more flavorful food. Chicken broth is my go-to when I need a liquid for starches like risotto or rice, and this recipe is no exception. And in this case, I add a smashed garlic clove or two as well. And like with most starches, low and slow (temp and time) yields the creamiest results.
What really makes these grits special though is its finishing flavors. While there’s something to be said for simple grits with a pat of butter, this combination of bacon, white truffle oil, and gruyere cheese is a knockout trio. Elevated, and yet still humbly southern, the only thing that could make these grits fancier is…
Perfectly Poached Eggs
A single poached egg is my favorite topper for Fancy Grits. Not only does yolk lend a silky richness to the starch, it’s fun to poke too! Poaching may seem intimidating at first, but there are some incredibly simple techniques to help shorten the learning curve.
Poached eggs are eggs that are ever so slightly cooked in simmering water- small bubbles on the bottom of the pot that don’t break the surface. This short simmer results in a firm white and a liquid golden yolk. They’ll taste great pretty much no matter how they look. But most people agree that a smooth, round white is a little bit of foodie magic, especially the moment it’s split open and glorious, glossy yolk spills over.
To minimize the white strands that can make poached eggs look messy, start with a fresh egg- the fresher the better. The “white” of an egg really consists of two whites- a thicker, firmer white and a runnier, more watery white. The watery white is more prone to spreading out in all directions in the water, and older eggs have more watery white than fresh eggs.
I also like to crack each egg one by one over a slotted spoon or fine mesh sieve. A small bowl underneath will help catch the watery white (there will still be some in even the freshest eggs). I then transfer the remaining egg to a small ramekin until its turn in the water bath comes. With the ramekins, I have better control of the gentle drop that keeps my poached eggs looking so pretty.
A small amount of vinegar mixed into the water will also help the egg to coagulate, or set, quickly. Some people prefer to stir the hot water to make a vortex before gently dropping in the egg. I find that this just twists the whites unnecessarily, and makes them less smooth. But try out a few different methods and see what works best for you! Practice makes perfect poached eggs.
Breakfast? Lunch? Dinner? You decide! Fancy grits are fancy either way.
- 12 slices bacon
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 1 cup quick grits
- 2-3 cloves garlic smashed
- 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse sea salt divided
- 1/2 cup gruyere cheese shredded (or more- I won't judge!)
- 1 teaspoon white truffle oil
- 4 eggs fresh
- 1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and allow the bacon to come to room temperature as much as possible.
On a dark, rimmed sheet pan fitted with a baking rack, line up bacon slices side by side without overlapping. Bake in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until you've reached desired consistency. Thinner cut slices will require less cooking time.
While the bacon is cooking, add chicken broth, smashed garlic cloves and 1 teaspoon of salt in a large saucepan. Bring the broth up to a boil. Whisk in the grits and cover with a lid. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit for another five minutes with the lid still on.
Allow the bacon to cool after cooking and reserve the bacon grease. Tear up 4 slices of cooked bacon to small pieces.
Fill another large saucepan with about 3 inches of water plus 1 Tablespoon of vinegar and bring to a very low simmer.
One at a time, crack a fresh egg over a fine mesh sieve or slotted spoon with a small bowl underneath to remove the runny white. Place each egg in a small ramekin. Gently pour each egg from its ramekin into the water. Let each egg cook for 3 to 4 minutes, depending on how runny you want your yolk to be.
Once done cooking, remove each egg with a slotted spoon and gently blot any extra water with a paper towel. If you are not going to be eating the poached eggs right away, place the eggs into a bowl filled with ice water to stop their cooking. They can be reheated in very hot water for thirty seconds later on as needed.
Remove the lid to the grits and remove the garlic cloves- they should be floating towards the top. Add the gruyere cheese, white truffle oil, bacon bits, about 1 Tablespoon of the bacon grease. Taste test and adjust seasoning or add the remaining salt if needed.
Serve warm grits with two slices of cooked bacon and a poached egg. Top with freshly ground pepper or sprinkled on smoked paprika.
If you don't feel like fishing out garlic cloves, simply add a 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder along with the other seasonings after the grits have finished cooking.