We’re planning a quick trip to New Orleans for my birthday next month and one of the restaurants everyone says we should try is called Jacques-Imo’s Cafe. We’re more than game, I mean honestly smothered chicken, shrimp and alligator cheesecake, fried grits? We’re so there. Except, there’s just one minor snag. They don’t take reservations and they routinely have waits of more than an hour, or so my coworkers say. On my birthday, a Saturday!, I want to be seated promptly and have a neverending supply of cocktails or good wine and still make it back to our hotel early enough to … watch the Food Network. What? We don’t have fancy cable at home. So we’ve made reservations at a place so swank that Greg is getting his suit — the one he wears only at weddings or funerals — dry cleaned.
Still, there’s just something about that cafe menu. So if we don’t make it on another night we’ll just have to settle for a recipe we found on Epicurious that is from the popular joint. We had it one Sunday for brunch with Fifteen Spatula’s bacon and toast cups. If you’ve liked the Rufus Guide on Facebook, you may have already seen the link to this article on five overlooked Southern ingredients, not surprisingly grits and sorghum made the list. If you haven’t liked us on Facebook please do. If you haven’t tried grits, you really should.
The only changes to the grits were the type of cheese. The original calls for cheddar and Monterey Jack. We also invented a topping, but it’s fine all by itself. Baked grits are creamier and fluffier than their stovetop cousins. They’re perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Baked cheese grits (adapted from Jacques-Imo’s Cafe)
- 4 cups water
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup quick-cooking grits
- 1 cup coarsely grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
- 1/2 cup coarsely grated aged provolone
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tbsp sherry
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup slice mushrooms
- 1/2 cup green onions
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 8x8x2-inch baking dish. Bring water, butter, and salt to boil in a three- to four-quart saucepan. Gradually whisk in grits. Reduce heat to medium; cook until mixture thickens slightly, stirring often, about eight minutes. Remove from heat. Add cheeses; stir until melted. Season with salt and pepper. Whisk milk and eggs in small bowl. Gradually whisk mixture into grits. Pour into prepared dish. Bake until grits feel firm to touch in center (grits will still be soft), about an hour. Let stand 10 minutes. For topping, heat olive oil over low heat until warm, do not allow to burn. Add mushrooms and green onions, saute until tender, about three to four minutes. Add sherry and cook a minute longer. Serve over warm grits.