And thus concludes this series of our favorite casserole recipes. If you make what follows and eat it all, just go ahead and call 911 beforehand. To your health!
On June 11, 1957, Mr. J. Balfour Miller won a contest to name the Natchez, Mississippi, Hospital. His winning entry was “The Jefferson Davis Memorial Hospital.” That name was… later changed. But not until 1993!
His wife, Katherine Miller, founded the Natchez Pilgrimage in 1931. Despite its slightly frightening title, this merely meant that the local ladies would open up their houses for tours, and people would go bopping about, peering into linen closets. That it was 1931 was not a coincidence either. (Broke times!) And today you can even rent Hope Farm, her house. They were from, let’s say, good families. (They all had plantations!) She and her husband both were delegates to the Republican Convention, in 1956! (Eisenhower and Nixon: good call.)
In The Pilgrimage Garden Club Antiques Forum Cookbook, published in the early 90s, there is a recipe by Mrs. J. Balfour Miller.
I despise casseroles. I hate almost all dishes where food is mixed, unless you count peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, or macaroni with cheese. Anything involving a Crockpot™ is right out.
And yet… some things are always delicious.
Mrs. J. Balfour Miller’s Cheese Grits Casserole
1 cup grits, uncooked
4 cups water
1 tablespoon salt
1 stick butter
1 roll garlic cheese
1/2 pound sharp cheese
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons Worcestershire
Before we get to the directions…. can we just talk about how notable this list of ingredients is? “One stick butter” is, by itself, a truly wonderful thing to write down.
Now, also, you may not be familiar with a “roll” of “garlic cheese.” Kraft, in a moment of Northern aggression, discontinued this popular product. Here is one way to recreate this rather… intriguing item: by mixing actual cheddar cheese, Velveeta, cream cheese, garlic powder and liquid smoke. I’m going to suggest you don’t do this! Use some cheese and a little garlic and maybe some pepper. Do they use pepper in the Old South?
And now, here are her instructions:
“Cook grits in salted water. When grits is done, ad all the other ingredients and stir until the cheese and butter have melted. Pour into a greased pyrex casserole. Bake in 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. Serves 8 to 10.”
Yup, that’s all of it. (I enjoyed also “when grits is done.”)
Well. Calling this a “casserole” is a stretch, except in the sense that it is ingredients placed in a dish in the oven. But I would also like to point out that it is awesome. If three of the five best food groups are grits, cheese and butter, how can this dish be argued against?
It is perfectly acceptable to cut the butter down, to half a stick. It also should be noted that one could cut the cheese a little or even “a bunch” perhaps, and also one should try not to use an “oily” cheese, as there is only so much oil that grits can absorb, as this puffy, cheesy, heart-stopping mess solidifies into a tasty loaf of death.
But then, this recipe does make some sense. You have to fill the long, lonely slave-less nights with something, as you stare out across the river at Louisiana. Speaking of: you could totally pop some crayfish in this. That would make it then the ideal meal, as the addition of crustaceans means you now have four out of five of the best food groups! You could make it a Stargazy Cheese Grits Casserole, if you decorate the top of the casserole with the crayfish heads sticking out, peering skyward.
Or go nuts and pop sheets of puff pastry on top of this monstrosity! You really can’t ruin this dish, as it comes pre-ruined. Serve it with your favorite Confederate flag napkins! The South will rise again! Possibly out of your esophagus.
Serve with Zantac.