Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Side Dish Recipe Redo for Christmas Dinner: Cheesy Chipotle Bacon Grits Casserole



When I was young, before I had a family of my own, I took for granted the fact that I never had to do anything for big holiday meals but show up hungry.  Then suddenly before I knew what hit me, it was all up to me, all the planning, the shopping, the cooking and the cleaning up.

This does have an upside though, because now that I am the matriarch of my family what I plan is what everyone eats.  Sure, I take suggestions and requests, but the final menu is all up to me.  I really don't feel bad about exerting my power with the occasional veto or last minute substitution, because goodness knows I've had to endure some not so great dishes myself under someone else's rule (my mother's oyster stuffing comes to mind).

This year our holiday meal pow wow concluded with a Honey Baked ham being chosen as the winner for main dish.  In the supporting category my daughter nominated her favorite, green bean casserole.  My son's request was a simple one, Sister Schubert rolls and Mr. H said he would be fine with anything that contained bacon.  Simple enough.

With the clock ticking, I must now plan for the rest of our meal.  Since there's not a turkey in sight, oyster stuffing is out of the question (my children don't know how lucky they are).  I normally would do my three cheese potatoes, and even though they are delicious I'm a little bit burned out on them.  Mac and cheese is always a consideration, but that just seems a little ordinary for Christmas dinner.  Since I'll always be a Texas girl at heart, I've decided on resurrecting and redoing an old time favorite that would often make an appearance on my family's brunch table in days past, cheesy grits casserole.  

I really love grits.  Kind of like polenta on steroids, they have a rustic taste and texture that lends a little comforting old world flavor to any menu.  To honor my husband's wishes I think I'll throw in some bacon and maybe a little chipotle pepper to add just a bit of a zip to the whole thing.   So if you are stuck in kind of a side dish rut, I hope this will give you a new idea so you aren't tempted to break out the oysters.



Cheesy Chipotle Bacon Grits Casserole

3 - 4 (depending on how much you like it) slices cooked bacon, chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 cups milk (or for a lighter dish, 1 cup chicken or vegetable broth & 1 cup milk)
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup quick cooking grits
1 cup grated medium cheddar cheese, divided
2 heaping tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 heaping teaspoon of chopped chipotle pepper with adobo sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 8 x 8" or large gratin dish with non-stick cooking spray; set aside.

Place bacon into a medium size frying pan set over medium high heat.  Fry bacon until crispy, transfer to a paper towel to drain.  Chop into small pieces when it is cool enough to handle; set aside until ready to use.

Add chopped onions to the hot bacon drippings in the frying pan and saute until they are soft.  Add garlic clove and saute for 1 minute.  Transfer to the paper towel with the bacon to drain and cool.

Pour milk and butter into a medium size saucepan set over medium high heat.  Bring to a boil and whisk in grits.  Cook for approximately 5 minutes or until the mixture is thick and smooth.  Add the bacon, onion mixture, 3/4 cup cheddar cheese, Parmesan, chipotle pepper and salt and pepper.

Place egg in a small bowl and add a third of a cup or so of the hot grits to the egg a tablespoon or so at a time, stirring well in between additions to temper the egg.  Add the egg mixture to the grits and stir well.  Pour into the prepared pan and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup of cheddar cheese.

Bake for approximately 30 - 35 minutes or until the top is golden brown and bubbly.  Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Serves 4

*This recipe can be easily doubled to feed a larger group.  I've also added an 8 ounce can of drained whole kernel corn to stretch it a bit and it is delicious too.
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