Saturday, July 21, 2007

No Stir Polenta

I know polenta is something a lot of people are not too fond of -- at least the people I know, but I love it. I grew up eating cornbread, fried cornmeal with maple syrup and cornmeal pancakes -- all of which I loved and still do. So, what's the difference in cornmeal and polenta aside from the names -- the way it's served I guess? There is also apparently some difference in the way it's processed in Italy compared to the way we do it here in the States, and I understand some polenta purists think this is essential. I can't find the 'real' thing at my local HEB and didn't feel like waiting a week for it arrive from some online specialty store, so I made do.
In Italy, we had polenta served as a savoury side dish a lot -- with guinea hen, beef, chicken, etc. It's one of those things like rice, semolina, etc. that can go both ways -- sweet or savoury -- and be good either way.
Recently, I was having one of my mad stomach days, and on those days, what I can eat is pretty much limited to pale carby things like pasta, rice, bread, and so on. This time, I thought some polenta might be just the thing to put me right. I remembered someone telling me how to cook it without the long tedious stirring process, and I thought I'd try it, especially since I was feeling puny and the thought of standing by the stove stirring something for 30 - 40 minutes didn't sound appealing -- at all. I did; it worked, and here's how to do it:

NO STIR POLENTA

4 cups water
1 cup polenta/cornmeal (I used 'Lamb's Stoneground', and I know it's not 'real' polenta, but it was all I had on hand so. . .)
1 t. sea salt
1 T. olive oil

Bring the water to boil and slowly sprinkle in the polenta with one hand while stirring with a whisk in the other hand. Make sure it's not lumpy, add the salt and olive oil then turn down the heat very low -- to the point where the polenta is just barely bubbling. Cook without stirring for about 30 to 40 minutes until it's the consistency you like.

Add whatever else you're in the mood for. I added some freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano, light cream and a little sprinkle of Fleur de Sel. This is almost perfect comfort food.

Put the pan in the sink to soak for a while, and the crusty bottom will clean up very easily.

Serves 2 - 4

I put about a tablespoon into my dog Buddy's food that night, and he is now a polenta lover too. Here he is tolerating (with some difficulty) the neighbors' cat who dropped in for a visit.

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