Italian Comfort Food: Sunshine in the form of Polenta

It’s winter, and a lot of recipes for root vegetables and stews are popping up, but it’s gross outside. The thought of a taste of summer was enticing, but an even better idea was a taste of another country!

I love polenta with a capital L. To be honest, I’ve heard the name often, had a hard time finding it in cookbooks (ridiculous!) and stores, haven’t seen it on menus anywhere and thanks to the invention of Wikipedia, I started playing around and making it myself. How bloody elusive it was, like some type of magical foodstuff unicorn. It’s actually a good thing that it was and I was forced to innovate, because the store-bought stuff in a tube has a bad reputation. Years later now, the recipes that I’ve actually found are usually plain and boring. Salt, water, cornmeal. Yawn!

This is really a basic formula that you can tinker with, but my finished product pretty much sang “I LOVE ITALY!” in falsetto (and in Italian). There’s a lot of stirring and watching and adding to be done, much like a risotto, but it’s so easy and the taste is worth it. Whether you try this served fresh and creamy, or sliced into wedges and fried after it sets, there isn’t a bad time for this stuff. Time for a little zazz!

Polenta con Amore
serves 8 to 10 as a side dish

2 cups of cornmeal
8 cups of sodium-reduced stock (chicken or veggie) OR
8 cups of water and broth powder (follow the instructions) if you’re in a pinch
1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano or other hard Italian cheese
1 tbsp lemon zest and a tiny squeeze of lemon juice
Several chunks of sun dried tomatoes and 2 tbsp oil from the jar
1 head of roasted garlic (this is a moderate amount. I used more, as always)
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil or oil left over from roasting the garlic
2 tbsp fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips
1 tbsp butter

Golden goodness!

Bring 2 cups of the stock to a gentle boil in a heavy-bottomed pan and add the cornmeal all at once. It's going to turn into a paste, so drop in another 2 cups and stir until it becomes thick (there WILL be lumps. Don't freak out!). Stir it a lot. In about 5 minutes, add 2 more cups of stock.

Lumpy bumpies.

Just smooth it all out...add more liquid if you need to.

I love cheese addition.

Here's a lesson in Parmigiano Reggiano math: Grate a lot of it. Does it look like enough? Good. Then do some more! Add it into the simmering pan along with the butter. Together they make the polenta rich and creamy.

This smelled amazing!

In the meantime while the pan is simmering away, get your ingredients ready if they aren't yet. Shred the basil, zest the lemon, squish out the garlic, and stir the polenta occasionally. If you aren't flying by the seat of your pants, you can stand there, mix the polenta more, and feel all smug. Gradually stir in all of the stuff you just handled, as well as the oils until they're well blended. Add the rest of the stock. Stir some more!

Watch me try to pan-flip this baby. All in the wrist...

After about 20 minutes total cooking time, your polenta should get a thick and creamy consistency. This is how it sets after cooling on the stove for about an hour. Keep it in the fridge overnight and you'll be able to throw it like a frisbee. Don't do that, though, unless someone is lying on the floor with their mouth open and trying to catch it.

Fried corn with cheese. What's not to like?

Pan-fried in olive oil. Quick and easy!

I’m completely satisfied with how this turned out and don’t have any notes or revisions. You know what they say about practice…

Eat well!


This entry was posted in Appies & Sides, Gluten-free, Vegetarian and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Italian Comfort Food: Sunshine in the form of Polenta

  1. Mia says:

    OOOOH OM NOM NOM!!!! Looks like a good recipe, I’m gonna have to try it.
    I tried making polenta once and it was pretty much bombed. I found some at that Dollar Grocers place on commercial, we should go there. That’s also where they have that awesome Portugese bread.

    • kchellouf says:

      Oooh, we can make that the next time you come over, or I can bring the stuff to your house. Polenta (like most things) is best when made from scratch, so I can teach you. It’s time consuming, but easy peasy and soooo good!! ❤

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s