on the path of healing: manchego cheese grits

One week ago, I wrote about my father’s hospitalization. In the days since, the outpouring of well-wishes and prayers for my dad — and for me and my mom — has been overwhelming. I may not have responded to each and every comment or message, but please know that I read them all at least once, and often more than a few times. Each message meant so much to me.

Thank you all so very much for being there for us.

My dad’s surgery on Monday went well. While my mom and I waited patiently – and sometimes not so patiently – a team of neurosurgeons removed a benign tumor from my dad’s brain. The tumor had bled, causing acute swelling of that area, which led to all of his symptoms and inability to walk without falling over. After spending three nights in the intensive care unit and another two nights on the regular neurosurgical floor, he was discharged to a rehabilitation hospital yesterday. Because the cranial nerve controlling balance on the left was destroyed, he will undergo intensive physical therapy to learn to be able to walk by himself, without falling. He is definitely on the path of healing.

I’ve spent a lot of time sitting by my dad’s hospital bed this past week. Much of that time he dozes on and off, occasionally rousing to ask a question about my kids or about my husband. Or about college sports. Or to complain about the hospital food. Even though I’m not physically doing much to care for him — the very patient and kind hospital staff are doing all the heavy work — I go to bed each night completely wiped out. My brain and body have hit their limit this week.

Stress makes me crave my kitchen, and comfort food is what I want to make under those conditions. For some reason, maybe because I live in the south or maybe because I’ve seen two recent blog posts that had me inspired (this one by Kelly and this one by Tami), I wanted to make grits. I wanted to eat grits.

Today my desire for grits was fulfilled. I generally use whatever brand of stone ground grits I can find in my specialty grocery. Nine times out of ten, it’s Charleston Favorites. I always rinse the grits first, pouring off any sediment that rises to the top. Some combination of milk and water – and of course, butter – makes these grits creamy and smooth.

I am not a fan of cheese grits, but I think it’s because most cheese grits are made with cheddar cheese. I’m not particularly fond of cheddar, or any yellow cheese for that matter. I added just a touch of finely grated Manchego cheese to this dish, and it gave it a nice subtle flavor that upped the power of these grits.

For lunch today, I topped the Manchego cheese grits with a sauté of chicken sausage and cherry tomatoes. I may or may not have had two servings. My cat, Mitzi, licked the dish when I was done. She highly approves of these grits.

I feel better already.

Yield: 8 side dish servings

Manchego Cheese Grits

I always rinse stone-ground grits to remove any sediment. To rinse them, put the grits into a bowl and cover with water. Any loose sediment will rise to the top. Pour off as much of the water (with sediment) as possible, and you're done. These grits are good at any time of the day - for breakfast, lunch or dinner.


2 cups water
1 cup milk (at least 2%)
1 cup half-and-half
1 teaspoon Kosher salt, plus more for seasoning to taste
1 cup white stone-ground grits, rinsed
2 ounces Manchego cheese, finely grated
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Freshly ground pepper


In a heavy bottom saucepan, bring water, milk, and half-and-half to a boil over medium-high heat. Slowly whisk in the rinsed grits. Add 1 teaspoon salt. Turn heat down to medium-low and stir constantly for 2 to 3 minutes. Simmer, stirring often, until grits have reached the desired thickness, 20-30 minutes. Add the Manchego cheese and stir well until the cheese has been fully incorporated. Turn off heat and stir in butter. Season to taste with additional salt and freshly ground black pepper.

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14 Responses to “comfort food: four cheese macaroni and cheese”

  1. DessertForTwo — May 5, 2011 @ 4:28 pm

    Such a classic! Love the way you write about the South. How cool he grew up in a bbq restaurant! I had a similar experience as a kid that I recently wrote about on my About page. I was a little sheepish to share it because this foodie world is very gourmet and chic and homegrown family restaurants aren’t very, you know, gourmet. So, long way of saying, thanks for sharing your story 🙂

  2. Courtney — May 5, 2011 @ 6:26 pm

    It looks delicious! I love homemade macaroni and cheese. I love how it’s crunchy and has texture.

  3. Oh. My. Gosh. I love mac and cheese, and this looks to die for! 2 cups of cream, 2.5 cups of whole milk and 3.5 cups of cheese?!? Count me in! Do you prescribe this to your patients? 🙂

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — May 5th, 2011 @ 9:35 pm

      Everything in moderation. 🙂

  4. These are four of my very favorite cheeses. It’s been rainy here in Massachusetts for a couple of days and I’m dying for some good, warm comfort food. Putting this on the list for the weekend!

  5. Sanjeeta kk — May 5, 2011 @ 9:40 pm

    Granny’s food could be so comforting! Love this simple, creamy and cheesy macaroni.

  6. Such wonderful comfort food… Doesn’t get much better than mac and cheese!

  7. Paula - bell'alimento — May 6, 2011 @ 7:21 pm

    4 cheeses are way better than one ; ) Love it!

  8. Mac and cheese is one of my hubby’s favorite foods, too… He constantly asks for it and then gets upset with me when I make my healthy whole wheat and butternut squash version. I think I’ll have to make this version next time as a peace offering… I have to admit (but don’t tell my hubby), I think your mac and cheese looks MUCH better than the one I usually make. 🙂

  9. I didn’t grow up eating mac-n-cheese, a shame I know, but I do love it now. Maybe it’s my maternal grandfather’s southern roots? 🙂 Love your version. Can’t ever go wrong adding extra cheese. Yum!

  10. MJ this looks absolutely sinfully good. The only way to eat mac and cheese – I say if you’re going to eat it, you might as well go all out.

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — May 10th, 2011 @ 6:04 pm

      That’s my philosophy, Mardi. 🙂

  11. Tina @ My Life as a Mrs — May 9, 2011 @ 2:58 pm

    mmm this mac n’ cheese looks fab! 🙂

  12. Sasa — May 10, 2011 @ 5:53 pm

    I have a very similar situation with my partner although living with me for 5 years has definitely increased the amount of things he enjoys eating. I do love me some mac and cheese too though.

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