Creamy Comfort

Grits are the perfect pillow for a homey, wintry dish

Chicago's chefs are experts in comfort food; the long, hard winter demands it. And the current comfort staple showing up on menus around town has a Southern slant: grits.

With a bit of butter, cream and salt stirred in, grits–corn that's been coarse-ground in a stone mill–can serve as base for anything savory, any time of the day.

Publican chef Brian Huston serves grits with Slagel Family Farm suckling pig ($21) at dinner, and with braised chicken, Meyer lemon and anchovies for brunch ($12). (His tip: Stir frequently during the entire cooking process.)

At Chaise Lounge, Georgia native Cary Taylor keeps it semi-classic: He stirs aged cheddar into baked grits and tops them with Old Bay-seasoned shrimp and smoked paprika. The result: A dish he says he'd gladly eat for breakfast, lunch or dinner (click here to download the recipe).

Anson Mills grits (from North Carolina) are common favorites that are available online–try the coarse grits if you like texture, or the finer-milled quick grits if you don't like to wait.

At North Pond, Bruce Sherman's divinely homey brunch dish of a soft-boiled egg, breaded chicken nuggets and roasted peppers sits on a base of grits from nearby Three Sisters Garden–get them in the refrigerated section of Chicago's Downtown Farmstand or at Green City Market on Saturdays.

Simmer, stir and stay warm.