This recipe is from Sean Brock’s Heritage. He calls for fancy grits (and recommends Anson Mills Antebellum Coarse Grits), but I’ve used whatever I’ve had in my pantry, and his method still works magic. The important part is that you soak the grits and season with a light hand -- and if you can find them, use fresh bay. —Kenzi Wilbur
Put the grits in a bowl and cover with the water. (Brock will ask you to use spring water — and you can — but I’ve used tap with good results.) Let them soak for at least 6 hours or overnight; you’re starting the hydration process in advance of the cooking, which will help them both cook faster later, and retain more of their corn flavor.
Quickly skim any hulls or chaff that have risen to the top of the water, and then pour everything — water and grits — into a large pot over high heat. With a silicone spatula (you can use a wooden spoon if you like, but humor him if you can — this tool is actually perfect for the job), stir like mad until the mixture comes to a boil.
As soon as it boils, cover the pot and take it off the heat to “relax” for about ten minutes.
After they’ve rested, put them back over low heat, uncovered, and add the bay. Cook for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring often, until the grits are tender and have lost their harsh bite. (According to Brock, you’ll feel a textural change.)
When the grits are done and you’re ready to serve, remove the bay leaves and season to taste with salt, lemon juice, and butter. (I started with 2 tablespoons for the whole batch, and didn’t add much more.) Don’t go overboard — you want just enough of each to bring out the corn flavor of the grits. Serve with additional butter and hot sauce, if you like.