Polenta Ways


Grits Gets a Beauty Treatment

Polenta is a classic Italian cornmeal dish that takes on many forms for meal planning. It can be served in soft “mashed potato” stage, semi-hard stage, or in sliceable hard stage.  Hard stage polenta can then be grilled, broiled, baked, or sautéed, into a heavenly under dish for later in the week. I even use small cubes in soups as dumplings!

PolentaChoose a fine cornmeal that still has the corn bran and germ in tact. Locate in health-food stores. My favorite brand is Arrowhead Mills Yellow Corn Grits.

I prefer a softer polenta and use 1 cup of dried cornmeal to 4 cups of water or reduce to 3 cups for a firmer result. I like all water, but it can also be mixed with some milk or stock if you prefer.

Be sure to use a thick bottomed pot. Or place the pot over a “flame-tamer” to prevent polenta from burning during cooking.

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Flame tamer

RECIPE: Can easily be doubled for a crowd

  • water- 4 cups
  • salt- 1 tsp.
  • pepper, fresh ground- 1/8 tsp.
  • Pecorino cheese- 1 cup grated, or Asiago, or Parmesan

Polentag

  1. In a medium saucepan bring water to the boil.
  2.  Stir the pot while adding the polenta in a slow steady stream. Reduce heat to LOW.
  3. Continue to cook on low heat, stirring with a heavy spoon occasionally until creamy—about 40-45 minutes. Add water while cooking if needed to maintain a “mashed potato” consistency.
  4. After polenta is smooth and creamy to the tongue, add the cheese off heat. It’s best when served immediately, or keep warm and thin with hot water if too thick.

ALTERNATE COOKING METHOD: I found a way to bake polenta so save active stove time. Preheat oven to 350º. After step 2 pour the contents into an oiled 9 x 9 pan and seal with foil. Bake for 40 minutes, then remove foil and stir in half the cheese. Recover with foil and let sit on counter for 10 minutes more. When ready to serve, sprinkle on the remaining cheese and chopped, fresh herbs – like parsley or chives.

PLANNED-OVER IDEAS

Cooled polenta can be cut into squares or cubes and reheated in soups or stews, or grilled and used beneath any type of stew. To prepare as a planned-over scrape polenta into a container, flatten and smooth with a spatula and refrigerate.

Polenta


ALTERNATE RECIPE:

Polenta with Onions and Sage

This is one of my favorites from a Mario Batali version.

  • water- 4 cups
  • onion, red- 1-1/2 cups, (1 med.), 1/4-inch dice
  • sage, fresh- 10 leaves, minced
  • polenta- 1 cup,
  • salt- 1 tsp.
  • pepper, fresh ground- 1/8 tsp.
  • Pecorino cheese- 1 cup grated, or Asiago or Parmesan

Baked Polenta

ALTERNATE RECIPE:

I enjoyed this NY Times recipe, and the polenta was baked.

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