Monday, March 10, 2014

Easy Polenta!

I watch a lot of Food Tv and Cooking Channel, so I'm familiar with polenta. I've also made the ready-cooked stuff and had fried polenta at catered parties. But I'd never made polenta until teamsters at when we were between meals and I was starving and we hadn't gone shopping for the day yet, so there wasn't much in the house.

But there was cornmeal!

So I made polenta.

For one serving, I did it this way:
- I cup of chicken stock, made with a cup of water and some stock base, heated to boiling.
- 1/4 c yellow cornmeal (mine is quite a bit finer than grits, but not so fine as flour; I don't know if that matters in the end!). Whisk it in a little at a time so it doesn't lump up like it did the first time I tried, using only a spoon. Seriously, whisk it. And sprinkle.
- Turn the heat down to low like when you're making rice, and cook, stirring, until it comes together with a texture like cream of wheat. You can taste a bit to see if the corn-bits are soft enough, but really, it suddenly looks like food when it's ready.
- when cooking is just about done, add in a teaspoon or so of butter and a tablespoon or two of cheese, and add black pepper. Add salt if your base is unsalted (mine was pretty salty, but it was perfect).

It starts out creamy and spoon-able, but as it cools it thickens up. It will form a skin, but I like a skin; if you don't, keep stirring it as it cools or add a layer of plastic wrap right over the top until its as cool as you want.

As it was so simple I think I could fancy it up a lot without making it all that much more complicated:
- sautéed onions and shredded chicken, like how I make risotto might be nice.
- use a tomato-based broth, then top with beans and taco-stuff.
- make it sweet by cooking it with milk and sugar and cinnamon instead of salt and broth.
- add super-sharp cheese, more of it, and top with sausage and veg--maybe country sausage and white gravy even!
- classic Italian style with sauce and braised meat and veggies!

So this is a Keeper, added to the rotation of Meal Options!

Do you make polenta? How do you eat it? What are your tricks?
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