Grits Appetizer Recipe

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This grits appetizer sounds very humble, but the shiitake mushrooms, Parmigiano Reggiano® cheese and a drizzle of high-quality balsamic vinegar turn these grits into a sophisticated appetizer with lots of umami flavor. Grits are corn kernels that have been ground. They are cooked like cornmeal and often eaten as porridge or, as in this grits appetizer recipe, spread in a pan, chilled and cut into shapes. In Italy grits are called polenta.

The term “yam” is often used interchangeably with sweet potato, although a true yam is a root vegetable native to Africa, South America and the Caribbean. You can, of course, use sweet potatoes in this grits appetizer recipe. For a variation on this grits appetizer recipe, omit the shitake mushrooms, double the amount of shallot (or onion) and top the finished rounds with crumbled Gorgonzola cheese in addition to the Parmigiano Reggiano. Both cheeses have plenty of umami to go around.

Ingredients (Serves 4) Convert to Metric

  • 1 (5 ounces) can evaporated milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup stoneground or old-fashioned grits
  • 1/2 cup shredded yams
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon shallot, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon rosemary
  • 5 ounces shitake mushrooms, sliced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 ounces Parmigiano Reggiano wedge
  • balsamic vinegar for drizzling
  • 4 ounces salad greens

Directions (This is Moderately Easy!)

Prep Time - 10 min | Cooking Time - 40 min

1. Combine evaporated milk, water (1⅓ cups for stone-ground grits or 1⅔ cups for old-fashioned grits) and salt in a deep sauce pan. Bring to a boil, then stir in the grits in a slow, steady steam. (if using old-fashioned grits add sweet potato, too) Turn heat to low, cover pan and cook 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. At this point the old-fashioned grits will be done, however if using the stone-ground grits, add sweet potato and cook another 15 minutes uncovered, stirring occasionally.

2. Remove pan from heat and stir in grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Oil an 8 by 8 inch- square cake pan. Pour in grits, spreading to an even thickness. Cool and refrigerate until firm. Cut into 2-inch rounds with a biscuit cutter. Arrange rounds on a greased baking sheet and reheat in a 350°F oven for 10 minutes before serving.

3. Prepare the topping. Heat olive oil in a non stick frying pan set over medium heat. Add shallot and rosemary and cook until softened, 1 minute. Add mushrooms and cook 2 to 3 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper. With a vegetable peeler, make shavings from the wedge of Parmigiano Reggiano.

4. Set out plates and place 2 to 3 hot rounds of grits on each plate. Top with mushrooms, scatter with Parmigiano Reggiano shavings and drizzle with vinegar. Serve immediately garnished with a mess of lightly dressed field salad greens.

*Old-fashioned grits have a shorter cooking time (15 to 20 minutes) than stone-ground grits (25 to 30 minutes).

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