Monday, August 15, 2011

Creamy Polenta with Parmesan Cheese

Polenta can be quite a nice treat, either as a side dish or main course. It’s odd to think that this much sought after, and sometimes expensive, dish began life as congealed corn much. Yup! Let hot corn mush harden and you’ve got polenta.

Italians don’t only each it after it’s firmed up, though. Intelligent foodistas that they are, they enjoy it hot from the pan as well, as creamy polenta. It’s the ultimate comfort food.

Contrary to what some may tell you, the best polenta is made from coarsely ground cornmeal. If you like eating craft glue, by all means, use a fine ground cornmeal. Otherwise, stick with a course grind. Stone-ground cornmeal is a close second choice, but because of it’s uneven grind, you get uneven results.

One of the nice things about this recipe is that it's so easy. My ten year old made the polenta you see pictured.

Equipment needed
Cutting board
Chef’s knife
Microplane or rasp grater
Measuring cups and spoons
Wooden (or plastic) spoon

3 Tbl butter
2 ounces Parmesan cheese (1 cup, grated)
6 cups water
1 1/2 cups coarsely ground cornmeal
Salt as needed

Cut the butter into large chunks and set aside. Grate the cheese with a fine rasp grater or microplane. You should end up with about 1 cup of grated Parmesan.

Bring 6 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add 1 1/2 tsp salt. Slowly add the cornmeal, whisking the whole time to avoid clumps. Reduce to a simmer, stirring constantly. Cover and reduce the heat to low. Continue stirring often, making sure you get into the corners of the pan, until the polenta is smooth and soft. This can take anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes, depending on the humidity and corn meal. Taste to check if it’s done. It should have a warm toasted corn flavor and be smooth in texture. Stir in the butter and grated Parmesan. Season with additional salt to taste and serve.

Serve with additional Parmesan cheese, your favorite marinara sauce, or with any other desired toppings.

Makes 6 servings.

I posted a recipe for the firmed up version of polenta, earlier. I like this mash recipe better. If you want firm polenta, you can allow this mixture to cool, cutting it into squares and frying just as I did in the original recipe.

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