2 tablespoons salted butter or 2 tablespoons unsalted plus ¼ teaspoon salt
2 cups water
½ cup whole-grain grits
1 to 2 cups milk, cream, half-and-half, water, or stock
Drop the butter into the water in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir in the grits, return to a boil, and reduce the heat, allowing the grits to cook at a low boil for 10 minutes or so, until the grits are very thick and have absorbed most of the water, stirring occasionally to prevent the grits from sticking.
Add about ½ cup of the milk or cream to the pot and turn down the heat, allowing the grits to simmer for another 10 minutes or so. As the liquid evaporates or is absorbed, add more cream or milk, cooking the grits until the desired consistency is reached, a total cooking time of at least an hour. The grits should be piping hot when served, slightly soupy but full-bodied enough that they do not run on the plate.
Serves 2 to 4.
Alternately, You can cook grits (4 parts water to one part grits) overnight in a slow cooker set to low, or you can use a rice steamer (3 parts water to one part grits), which will take about 20 minutes. In both cases, add a little salt before cooking. You can also cook grits (4:1 water to milk) in a covered pan 180°F overnight, or, as Paula Wolfert wrote in Fine Cooking magazine several years ago, you can cook “polenta,” using either grits or cornmeal, by mixing 1cup grits to 3 tp 31/2 cups water (or half water and half milk), 1 teaspoon salt, and a tablespoon of butter or olive oil in a greased, nonstick 3-quart pan and baking it uncovered for 40 minutes. Remove from the oven, stir well, correct salt, and bake, if wanted firmer, for another 10 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes, then turn out on a board to slice into wedges. For creamy polenta, use 5 to 6 cups liquid.