If you need a little more edification (and if you aren't familiar with grits, your world is about to be rocked), here we go.
Grits are ground dried corn. Traditionally, grits most often come from white corn. The whole shebang is similar to polenta, from the ground dried corn (usually yellow in the case of polenta) to how it is prepared. Purists in the grits or polenta camps would beg to differ.
Grits are usually a bit creamier in texture after being cooked, and appear on plates or in bowls at breakfast, lunch and dinner in the South.
There are different kinds of grits, which take different amounts of time to cook. I often use quick-cooking grits (or polenta) because in less than 10 minutes you can have your grits ready to serve. If you have a little more time, the texture of the longer-cooking varieties is a bit more interesting. Be sure to read package instructions, as cooking times vary widely. Also note that the amount of liquid each kind requires can vary.
For breakfast, grits are usually served in a sweet way, with maple syrup or brown sugar on top, and generous amounts of butter (basically whatever you use to top oatmeal is appropriate for grits). For lunch or dinner, they usually take a savory twist — then they are more akin to rice or mashed potatoes in the way they round out a meal.
Here, they are enriched with some cream and cheese for an addictively fine base for quickly sautéed chicken breasts and a slightly creamy sauce. One little can of green chilies packs a nice amount of piquancy but not too much heat.
There are lots of ways to get acquainted with grits. Once you get to know them, be prepared for a deep, lifelong relationship.
GRITS WITH CHICKEN AND TOMATILLO GREEN CHILI AND SOUR CREAM PAN SAUCE
Start to finish: 25 minutes
2 cups water
1 cup whole milk
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
3/4 cup quick cooking (not instant) grits
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
4 (8-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
1 (4-ounce) can diced roasted green chilies
1 cup chicken broth
½ cup sour cream
Place the milk and water in a saucepan with salt and pepper, and bring to a simmer over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and slowly add the grits, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring frequently for about 8 minutes until the grits are smooth and creamy. Stir in the butter, heavy cream, and Parmesan until the butter is melted and the grits are hot and very creamy.
While the grits are simmering, season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the chicken breasts and sauté until done, about 4 to 5 minutes on each side. Remove the chicken breasts to a plate and set aside. Do not wipe out the skillet!
Add the garlic to the skillet and sauté over medium heat for 1 minute, until it starts to color. Add the green chilis, turn the heat up to medium high, then add the broth and stir to scrape up all the little flavorful bits that may be stuck to the bottom of the skillet. Simmer for about 4 minutes until the mixture reduces slightly. Whisk in the sour cream until well combined and heat just until the mixture is hot, but don't allow it to come to a simmer.
Scoop some hot grits onto each of four individual plates. Place a chicken breast on each plate, on top of the grits, and pour the sauce over the chicken breasts. Serve hot.
Nutrition information per serving: 585 calories; 297 calories from fat; 33 g fat (17 g saturated; 1 g trans fats); 167 mg cholesterol; 448 mg sodium; 35 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 5 g sugar; 35 g protein.
Katie Workman has written two cookbooks focused on easy, family-friendly cooking, "Dinner Solved!" and "The Mom 100 Cookbook." She blogs at http://www.themom100.com/about-katie-workman. She can be reached at Katie@themom100.com.