Friday, September 23, 2011

Basics: Polenta


(Really, cornmeal mush, porridge, and grits just don't sound quite as nice.)
A nice hot bowl can be great on it's own.
But it's also lovely as a side with roasted or braised meats. Pork or beef...
Then again, that bowl of hot polenta is a fantastic meal on it's own with pesto, herbed and sauteed mushrooms, marinara, roasted vegetables...

Any leftovers can be poured into a pan, cooled, cut, sprinkled with flour or extra dry polenta, and fried the next day. 
Crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside.

It can be flavored with herbs, red pepper, Parmesan or other cheeses, or whatever else sounds good.

Just make sure you buy cornmeal that's labeled as polenta, not a more quickly cooking form of cornmeal. The polenta will have an obviously more coarse grind than regular cornmeal.

Basic Polenta
adapted from Zingerman's Guide to Good Eating
serves 4 (as a main) or more

8 c chicken or vegetable stock
3/4 t kosher or sea salt
2 c uncooked polenta
1 c finely shredded Parmesan cheese
Optional: rosemary, thyme, oregano, marjoram, crushed red pepper flakes, extra Parmesan for serving

Bring stock to a simmer over medium heat. Add the salt and stir to dissolve. Gently stir the broth with a whisk while slowly adding the polenta in a steady stream. You want things to keep moving to prevent the formation of lumps. Once all the polenta has been added, switch from a whisk to a wooden spoon. Continue stirring and bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Simmer the polenta at least 30 minutes, stirring frequently (don't worry about "constantly"- just keep an eye on it, and cover the pan when not stirring the polenta). Add water or extra stock if it looks and feels like it's getting too thick. The longer it cooks the better it will be. 
When ready, the polenta should be thick, smooth and creamy. 
Stir in the Parmesan cheese and check for seasoning and doneness.
Serve warm with roast meats, gravies, vegetables, and/or sauces.

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