Thursday, February 27, 2014

Polenta

I have been a little obsessed with cornmeal lately. I like it mixed into waffle batter, baked into shortbread (which I will talk about tomorrow) and cooked into creamy polenta as a side to any recipe I can get away using it with.

Polenta was one of those things I pre-judged. For the longest time I thought polenta only took the form of those weird tubes sold in grocery stores. The kind you slice and pan fry. Come to find out, it is simply coarsely ground cornmeal that is cooked with milk, water, a few spices and butter. Add some sharp cheddar or Parmesan cheese and we will be best friends.

It is simple comfort food.


First step in polenta-making: soak your coarse cornmeal in water. While this is happening, bring the milk to a simmer on the stove (you will want to use a medium saucepan.) Once it is simmering, add the cornmeal mixture to the milk and reduce heat to medium.


Stir your polenta constantly over medium heat. It may seem like a lot of liquid at first, but the cornmeal will eventually absorb it all. Stirring it constantly will ensure the finished dish is super creamy. Your polenta is done cooking when it has absorbed all of the liquid (this should take 10-15 minutes.)

Once it is fully cooked, turn off the heat and stir in a few pats of butter and some grated cheese. You can use this polenta as a base for stew or gumbo. Enjoy it as a side dish. Or do the breakfast for dinner thing and top it with an egg and crispy bacon... yep I went there.


Polenta
serves 2 as an entree or 4 as a side dish

2/3 c cold water
2/3 c coarse ground cornmeal
2 c milk (2% or whole for best results)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 c cheese (I used cheddar, but Parmesean is great too)
- - -
1. In a small bowl, combine water, cornmeal, salt and pepper; stir gently together and allow to sit for ten minutes
2. In a medium saucepan, heat milk to a simmer
3. Add cornmeal mixture to simmering milk and reduce heat to medium
4. Stir constantly with a spatula (this will ensure you reach the corners of the pot) for 10-15 minutes; the cornmeal will slowly absorb the liquid... it will bubble and boil as it thickens so be careful while you stir
5. After the mixture cooks for about 10 minutes, check for doneness... it should be smooth and creamy and all the liquid should be absorbed
6. Remove pot from heat and add your butter and cheese, stirring until both are completely melted
7. Season with additional salt and pepper if needed before serving

*Just a note... polenta thickens considerably as it cools so it is best to enjoy this recipe as soon as you make it

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