Polenta Pleasure

18 Aug

Sometimes rice, pasta, and potatoes just start to feel constraining, yanno?  I sometimes switch things up with quinoa or couscous, but last night, inspired by the bag of cornmeal I bought recently, I decided I wanted to try polenta.

I’ve tried making polenta once or twice before, and I’ve eaten it at restaurants, but I’ve never been that impressed.  It’s always been bland, or else too dry for my taste.  But I love the texture of cornmeal and didn’t feel like making cornbread, and I figured that surely, somewhere out there must exist a tasty polenta recipe.

It took a few minutes on Google to find one that looked flavourful but was still fairly simple, meaning I had all the ingredients on hand and it wouldn’t take an hour to make.  The recipe I found came from this post at The Amateur Gourmet, who in turn borrowed it (and slightly altered it) from The Barefoot Contessa.  He forgets one of the steps (when to add the cheese), and he doesn’t start with a list of ingredients, which I found annoying.  Still, it turned out great, so I’ll reproduce it for you here.  He does have some fab photos of the process.

WARNING: This is not a low-fat recipe!  But it is oh-so-good and such a nice change of pace from your everyday starches.

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • a grinding or two of red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp (or to taste) fresh thyme or rosemary (I used dried)
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1-1/2 cups chicken broth (I used bouillon satchets and water)
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1-1/4 cups cornmeal
  • flour
  • 1 tbsp butter + 1 tbsp olive oil for frying
  1. In a medium saucepan, melt butter and mix with olive oil.
  2. Add chopped garlic, herbs of choice, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.  Cook until garlic is tender.  Normally I would use my garlic press for this, but it was all crustified, so I just made sure the garlic cooked awhile, and it didn’t cause any problems in the finished product.
  3. I added the parmesan at this point because I notice this step was missing.  In the comments of the post (which I didn’t read before I started) the Amateur Gourmet says to add it after adding the cornmeal, when you’ve taken the mixture off the heat.
  4. Add the chicken stock and milk and bring the mixture to a boil.
  5. Remove from heat to add cornmeal slowly, mixing thoroughly with a whisk to avoid lumps.
  6. Return to heat and let cook at low heat until the mixture has thickened.
  7. Pour into a 9-inch cake pan (round or square) and stick it in the fridge to cool while you start cooking up the rest of your meal, or a sauce for your polenta, if that’s how you like it.
  8. I only let my mixture rest for 5 or 10 minutes before I took it out of the fridge.  It should have firmed up a little bit by now.  Cut it into triangles or wedges.  Sprinkle some flour on top.  (I’m not sure why one is supposed to sprinkle the flour on top; I’m pretty sure you could skip this step and no one would notice…)
  9. Melt the butter and olive oil in a pan.  Fry the wedges of polenta until golden on both side.
  10. Serve with supper with pride!

You could actually skip the frying because the polenta tastes wonderful even without.  I think I’ll try making this sometime with 1/4 cup less cornmeal and serving it “wet”, almost like mashed potatoes.  We ate ours with a salmon and a fabulous asparagus recipe that I’ll have to share another time.  Mmmmm, bon apetit!

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3 Responses to “Polenta Pleasure”

  1. MIQuilter August 18, 2008 at 1:40 pm #

    This sounds so yummy I might have to make it tonight! You listed flour though as an ingredient and didn’t say what to do with it in the recipe. (the reference says sprinkle the polenta squares with it before frying). Did you do this or did you skip the flour step when you fried?

    Oops, you’re right! I forgot to mention that! Thanks for pointing it out. :) I did sprinkle flour on the tops when I fried the pieces, but I honestly don’t think it’s very necessary. There didn’t seem to be much difference between the tops and the bottoms after they were fried, even though the flour got sprinkled on only one side. I’m not sure what the flour is supposed to accomplish! I’ll edit the recipe with a note about this, though.

  2. Kara August 18, 2008 at 5:24 pm #

    That sounds so fricken good! I think I will give that a try this week!

  3. MIQuilter August 19, 2008 at 12:14 pm #

    So I tried it “creamy style” last night – using 1 c corn meal and not frying it at the end. Of course, since I simply cannot follow a recipe to save my life (I have the ability – it’s just a real aversion.. not sure why) I did make the following modifications: 1) left out the red pepper flakes 2) added 1/2 minced onion at the same time as the garlic and cooked til translucent. It was DELICIOUS! Thanks so much for this recipe!!

    And thank YOU! I’ll have to try that variation sometime soon. :D

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