Original Publication Date: 7-7-2012
I first heard about polenta a few years ago on the Food Network, but I never really knew what it was. When I looked it up, I have to admit that it didn’t sound that appealing — but it was versatile enough that I thought I’d at least like to try it. At the time I could not find a restaurant in the area that served it that was within my budget, which was frustrating, because polenta is essentially a peasant’s dish; hearty, earthy and cheap to make!
One spring, a couple of years ago, I was thumbing through an Italian cookbook that I’d gotten as a gift, and finding a recipe for polenta within it — and being game to try new recipes — I decided it was time to make it! I was eager to try it, because I really wanted to finish it over the open flames of a grill. It was… only okay. The recipe I tried was maybe a little too basic. I liked the flavor potential it had, but it lacked richness. The only dairy in the original recipe that I tried was a few tablespoons of butter and the corn meal it called for was a coarse ground variety, which made the texture very gritty, even after simmering it for over an hour. My current recipe is an amalgamation of sorts; I’ve kept the vegetable stock for part of the base, but also added dairy to the base in the form of cream. I’ve also punched it up a bit with white pepper, and have mixed the grind of the corn meal to change-up the texture. Give it a try, and remember, season to taste!
My recipe for polenta with some serving suggestions:
- 4½ C. strained vegetable stock
- 1½ C. Cream or half-and-half
- 2 tsp. salt
- 3 Tbs. butter
- 1½ C. yellow cornmeal
- ½ C. coarse ground cornmeal
- ¼ C. shredded Parmesan cheese
- ½ Tsp. White Pepper
- Bring water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add salt.
- Gradually whisk in the yellow cornmeal.
- After yellow cornmeal begins to thicken stir in coarse cornmeal. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the mixture thickens and the cornmeal is tender, stirring often, about 15 minutes.
- Add cream, white pepper and Parmesan cheese, stir well.
- Turn off the heat. Add the butter, and stir until melted.
WET - This is similar to mashed potatoes. Works great with hearty sauces, or simply serve with melted butter or cheese.
DRY - Spread the polenta onto a greased cookie sheet and chill until it is stiff. Grill, fry, or sauté and serve with sauces, steaks or other favorites.