Friday, October 17, 2008

Basic Polenta

Rehearsal ran until 10 last night, so I didn't get a post in; you get two today from Eat This...It'll Make You Feel Better! to make up for it. Not just two; two that go together!
Basic Polenta

Polenta is very popular in Italy, and leftovers, which have a very firm consistency, can be fried like grits. Very few people know this, but polenta can be used to repair broken stucco and any cracks in your home! The nice part is, when you're hungry, all you've got to do is lick the walls. Seriously, though, the real trick here is to keep stirring it slowly...and keep believing.

6 cups water
2 cups polenta, or coarse-grained cornmeal

Bring water to a boil in a heavy saucepan. Reduce heat so water is just simmering and gradually add the polenta in a steady stream. Stir constantly.

Continue to stir until polenta is thickened. Polenta should come away from the sides of the pan and be able to support a spoon. Pour thickened polenta onto a wooden board and let stand for a few minutes before turning out onto a serving platter.

Polenta can be served in a variety of ways: as a bed for chicken, sausages, or rabbit stew. As a first course, it can be topped with grated cheese. Polenta is delicious served with marinara sauce too... just make indentations and fill the wells with your favorite spaghetti sauce. Have fun serving your polenta by cutting it the "old-fashioned" way: hold a string tautly and slice right through.

Serves 5-6.

Aaaah, Mr. DeLuise. Now is when we remember that you're a schlocky comedian. Note to blog readers: don't use polenta to repair your home. Also, lentil soup is not improved by adding in a piece of ceiling or sky.

It may seem strange that this recipe doesn't include any fat. Where is the butter? Where is the cheese? Regardless, this is a purist approach, and just like cooking up a pot of rice, you should know how to get the starch perfect perfectly plain before you do improvisational riffs on the theme.

Truth be told, I usually buy my polenta pre-cooked, in tubes, and then fry it up in rounds, or smoosh it into a casserole and top off with Tex-Mex ingredients. I don't know that I've ever gone a polenta route with Italian food. I'm willing to give it a try, though -- starch + tomatoes + cheese = perfection, in my book.

Soft squoodgy warm starch sounds very soothing to me.

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