Fall is coming up, and that means it’s time for warm comforting meals. These cheesy, creamy grits topped with Cajun chicken thighs fit the bill!
We’ve reached the time of the year where I start to feel a little bit excited about the changes in the seasons. I’ve noticed that when I wake in the wee hours of the morning that it feels just a little cooler in the bedroom. I’ve started dreaming about t-shirt sheets. I am sure that it will still be a while before shorts and long sleeves weather (my absolute favorite weather), as temperatures here are still reaching into the nineties. However, college football has begun and so it’s unofficially official: Fall is here (it will be official on September 23, though I doubt that the weather in Tennessee will get the memo for a while).
Even though the mercury is still climbing here, there’s just a difference in the air, in the atmosphere, and in the attitudes that makes me think of crunching leaves and going to high school football games all those years ago (seriously – all those years ago…my 20-year reunion was last weekend). Suddenly, my cravings switch from cold salads and cookout foods to anything warm and comforting. I laugh to think that my cravings for cheese ever diminish in any way, but when Fall approaches, I definitely start to look for more ways to incorporate cheese into my life (this is somewhat problematic).
I recently discovered an exciting bargain at Barnes and Noble – The Complete Cook’s Country TV Show Cookbook (<–affiliate link). At less than $10, it was a steal and there was no question that it was going to be mine. Combing through the pages and pages of Americana dishes, I quickly stumbled upon a recipe for cheesy grits made with old-fashioned (i.e. not quick or instant) grits and full of Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses. My interest was piqued, and when I picked up some Riverview Farms Milling grits at Main Street Meats I knew instantly that they would become cheesy grits.
The obvious thing to serve with grits is, duh, shrimp. I had another shrimp dish on the menu, though (look for that one coming up soon), so I decided that I needed to think of another meat to serve with it. I’m not really sure where the idea for Cajun chicken thighs came from, but it seemed to me that creamy, homey, cheesy grits was a perfect foil for spicy, slightly crispy Cajun chicken thighs. I found a recipe for homemade Cajun seasoning from Emeril and sprinkled it on dry-brined chicken thighs, cooking them till crispy yet tender, sliced up the Cajun chicken thighs, and topped the grits with them. A side of quick Southern green beans, and these Cajun chicken thighs with cheesy grits were a great meal for a night when I needed a bowl of comfort.
Cajun chicken thighs with cheesy grits taste so good and they’re easy to make, so why not serve them up to your family?
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Yield: 4 servings
15 minPrep Time:
25 minCook Time:
40 minTotal Time:
- 1 pound chicken thighs, trimmed
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- Cajun seasoning (recipe below)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (can use less if people in your house have sensitive taste buds)
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels (thaw if using frozen)
- 3 1/2 cups water
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 green onions, thinly sliced, white parts chopped
- 1 cup milk
- 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce (I used Frank's)
- salt and black pepper
- 1 cup old-fashioned grits
- 4 ounces (1 cup) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
- 4 ounces (1 cup) shredded Cheddar cheese
- Place the chicken thighs on a plate and use a fork to poke several holes in both sides of the chicken. Sprinkle with the salt on both sides. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.
- To make the Cajun seasoning, stir together all ingredients in a small bowl with a lid (you will not need all of the seasoning).
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
- Puree the corn with 1/4 cup of the water in a blender or food processor until smooth. Set aside.
- In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. Saute the green onions until soft, then add the remaining water, milk, hot sauce, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Stir to combine and bring to a boil.
- Slowly whisk the grits into the saucepan until there are no lumps. Add the pureed corn then reduce heat to low and cook, stirring frequently, until thickened. This took about 25 minutes for me, but it may take less so pay attention.
- While the grits are cooking, preheat the olive oil in a 10-inch skillet (I used cast iron) over medium-high heat until shimmering. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and sprinkle both sides with Cajun seasoning. Don't overdo it, as this will make the chicken too salty; a fine, even layer should be plenty.
- Saute the chicken for 2-3 minutes on both sides until golden. Place the skillet in the oven and cook for 15 minutes.
- Stir the cheeses into the grits and adjust seasonings. Ladle the grits into a bowl. Slice the chicken and place on top of the grits. Serve immediately. If there are any grits left, they make a great breakfast.