I know that polenta is one of those foods that folks love to hate. Believe me, in spite of the heavy Italian influence in my kitchen repertoire, it wasn’t something I really enjoyed either as it kept being served to me in its runny, porridge format with fixins so samey in terms of flavour and texture that my mind tucked it neatly into the “thou shalt not inflict this crap upon thy sprogs” file.
I later discovered that the basest of the base ways to eat polenta was chilled and set, then broiled, baked, grilled, or fried. Literally like the plebes did.
A whole new world of carb consumption opened up to me, however, it was reliant on those anemic-looking, rubbery, and gritty as hell tubes of polenta one can find at most grocer’s. While it wasn’t terrible, I knew it could be better. It’s also almost five quid per tube these days. Wha-?!?!
Knowing that such a thing could be made by my self (thanks Rolodex brain), I set about making my own.
You guys, the Internet and recipe books are full of recipes for polenta that a) make it sound like a stupidly long, grueling process that one must fuss over 5eva in order to achieve the desired results and b) LIE TO US about the fact that that shit is like fucking napalm while its cooking and the long way is traditionally met out using SIX FOOT LONG SPOONS AND SEATED COPPER POTS MEANT SPECIFICALLY FOR MAKING SMOOTH, CREAMY POLENTA. I see you Gadia, and Mario, and all you other LIARS.
Do you have a six foot long spoon and copper polenta pot that won’t budge if you stir it from six feet away in your kitchen?
If you do, I’d like you to know that I’m still available for adoption.
If not, hop aboard. Be my ride or die. Or sit there and look cute. Or whatever. It’s all good.
This recipe is specifically for the kind of polenta you want to broil, bake, grill, or fry and not the kind you want to come together as a delicate cloud of fluffy corn mush on which to set your osso buco. I have a whole other post in mind about soft, fluffy clouds of things and the lies we’re told about them, but that is another tale for another time.
This recipe gives you polenta that is sturdy enough for broiling, baking, grilling and frying until it is crisp on the outside and wonderfully tender, but not rubbery, on the inside.
What you need:
- 7 cups of water
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 & 3/4 cups of fine cornmeal
- 1/4 cup of salted butter or margarine
- A little oil for lubing
What you do:
- Pour the salt and water into a large, heavy saucepan or dutch oven and bring to a boil.
- Kill the heat.
- You have about 60 seconds to achieve the next step, so ready your cornmeal and a large whisk.
- Slowly pour the cornmeal into the boiling water, stirring continuously with your large whisk to make sure there are no lumps of cornmeal.
- RUN away from the pot and to safety.
- From a safe distance, watch as the cornmeal mush bubbles and boils and spits and thank your deity or Carl Sagan or me that you’re not anywhere near that volcano of molten corn goo because that shit would mess up your pretty face.
- After about 10 minutes, it should stop bubbling (the timing is going to depend on how heavy the pot you’re using is – the heavier the pot, the longer it will take to cool) and you can safely stir the butter or margarine in. Do that.
- Grease a baking sheet and transfer the polenta to it.
- Set in the polenta-laden baking sheet in the fridge and let chill for at least an hour before serving.
- Bake, broil, grill, or fry and serve with whatever your heart fancies. I recommend checking out my pescatore recipe…or ossu buco. Osso buco is heavenly with a crisper polenta.