My Mom's Hack for Leftover Grits Transforms Them Into The Tastiest Suppertime Side

They’re even better the second time around.

Among the many miracles my mom pulled off throughout my childhood was fixing us a hot breakfast nearly every morning, school days included. On my favorite mornings (save for the special occasions she'd make almond-butter-stuffed French toast), my groggy-eyed sisters and I would come down the stairs to a steaming pot of stone-ground yellow grits. My mom always made a little more than we'd eat, and instead of saving the leftovers in a Tupperware, she'd pour them into short plastic tumblers, cover them with cellophane wrap, and refrigerate them. She'd turn those grits into an A+ suppertime side dish. Here's how she does it.

Once the leftover grits solidify in the cup, my mom will slide the wiggly cylinder onto a cutting board and slice it into several rounds, each about half an inch thick. Then she'll coat a skillet with cooking spray and pan-fry the rounds until they're golden brown and a little crispy on the outside. A few minutes in the pan, and voila! Grits cakes. From there, the options are endless: Top with fish filets or shrimp and pair with greens. Fry eggs over easy for yolky toppers or substitute them for potatoes or rice.

Perfect Pot of Grits Recipe

Photo: Hector Sanchez

It's an easy, waste-free mealtime trick inspired by her mother-in-law, who raised my dad and aunt on Southern-fried cooking in rural South Carolina, and one that my mom has since made her own. Sometimes, instead of making grits cakes, she'll make grits fries. For this method, she first refrigerates grits in a rectangular casserole dish. Once they've solidified, she cuts them into strips to resemble steak fries. She then spreads them out on a cookie sheet, drizzles them with olive oil, and bakes until crispy. Unconventional? Maybe. Delicious? Definitely.

So next time you're about to spoon the last of your leftover grits into the trash, think again: You've got a whole other side dish or two sitting in the bottom of the pot.

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