White Grits and Cheddar Pudding

This dish was inspired by the Southern chefs I've encountered, particularly from the Carolinas, where they get their fresh white grits from local farms. Most people opt for mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving, but this is an easy way to upgrade your side and still get all of the traditional buttery, deliciousness.
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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 1 hr
  • Active: 5 min
  • Yield: 8 servings
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Ingredients

7 cups whole milk

1 1/2 cups white grits, coarsely ground, such as Anson Mills or Geechie Boy Mill

1 tablespoon salt

1 cup smoked bacon, finely chopped

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter

2 cups white cheddar cheese, grated

Sourdough bread, one day old, cut into chunks to yield 1 cup (113g) untoasted coarse bread crumbs

Black pepper, freshly ground, optional

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a large, heavy-duty, oven-proof pot or Dutch oven, scald the milk over high heat.Slowly sprinkle the grits into the simmering milk, stirring constantly so they don't clump. Season with salt. Cover the pot and place in the oven for 40 minutes, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot every 10 minutes.
  2. In a small saute pan set over medium heat, cook the bacon until brown and crispy. Drizzle in the olive oil, if necessary. Remove the bacon to a plate, leaving the fat in the pan.
  3. Place the chunks of day-old bread in the bowl of a food processor, and pulse until coarse crumbs are formed. Add the bread crumbs to the saute pan with the bacon fat, and toast over medium high heat, until light brown and toasty. Add the bacon to the bread crumbs and stir to combine. Remove from the heat, set aside.
  4. Continue to check and stir the grits every 10 minutes.
  5. After 40 minutes, remove the grits from the oven and check the doneness. Turn the oven to broil. Fold the butter into the grits. Add the cheese and stir to melt. Pour the grits into a wide, shallow, ovenproof dish and scatter the bread crumbs across the top. Run the grits under the broiler until bubbly and lightly browned, about 2 minutes.
  6. Remove the grits from the oven and serve immediately.