Two phases of polenta, with a recipe

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Polenta. Peasant food of Gods. "Grits with a college education," as one wise customer put it.

Thickly ground cornmeal, originating in husk of sweet yellow or white corn, dried, grounded, pounded, whisked and cooked, preferrably over a double boiler, 5 parts to 1, water to cornmeal.

PHASE 1:

A porridge like pot of mush appears. There is no better way to state it. Polenta, in this state, is soft, warm, nourishing, and good. Add butter, olive oil, grated parmiggiano-reggiano (perhaps a pecorino romano instead) heck, you can use the powder-fine grated parm in the green grocery store bottle; it will taste good. Serve in bowls as appetizer, side dish, minced parsley on top. This soft polenta is easy on the eyes on a cold, winter day.

PHASE 2:

Instead of eating your mush, oil a glass baking dish. Pour. Let the polenta pudding harden/cool at room temp. Slip it in the fridge to speed up the process.

Now your universe begins to unfold. You can cover it with pumpkin-seed pesto and run under the oven. You can top with marinara, melt mozzarella on top and rock out with toppings of olives, artichoke hearts, and diced green bell pepper, pizza-style. You can kick it like Napolean, sliced thin and layered a la stack, with bits of basil, roasted red bell pepper, and grilled zuchinni in the middle.

Vegan? Vegetarian? Do as you like. The Gods do not discriminate.

$40 plate? Certainly. Will quick grits work? Without a doubt.

This is PhD cornmeal, my friends, and you can go as earthy, or heavenly, as you like. Grab your wooden spoon, and stir, baby, stir.

  • Proportions for Polenta are 5 to 1, water to corn grits. Use a thick-bottomed pot to prevent sticking and be prepared to soak it afterward; traditionally, a double-boiler is used to prevent scorching the polenta on pot bottom.
  • Corn “meal” is not good for authentic polenta; traditionally, polenta is a larger, coarser grind; Southern-style “corn grits” will work. These days, you can find “polenta” grits or grind in many supermarkets or specialty food stores. You can also find pre-cooked polenta, in tube form, in the refrigerated produce section of many stores these days. Should you choose to use this, you can skip the following steps, and go right to the sauce.

1/4 teaspoon of salt should be added per cup of corn grits.

  • A good amount to start with is 2 1/2 cups corn grits to 12 cups water.
  • Always use filtered water.
  • Bring the water to a boil.
  • Then whisk in the corn grits, knocking out any lumps with the wire whisk.
  • Lower the heat to a simmer, and whisk up every ten minutes or so.

  • The polenta should be ready in about 40 minutes, when the meal starts to “pull away” from the sides of the pot and has become a thick porridge-like consistency.

  • Turn off the heat when it’s done, and whisk in 1/4 cup olive oil per cup of corn grits. You can also add 1 cup grated parmesan cheese at this point if you like.

  • Then oil a large metal baking pan (rectangular) or a glass baking dish and pour the polenta in.
  • Cool in top shelf of freezer until polenta “sets up.” That should only take about 20 minutes or so. Allowing the polenta to “set-up,” after taking it out of the oven, gives it the right consistency for cutting and serving.

  • Then you can add the sauce, score, wrap, and label for later use, or re-heat and serve immediately. If you’re topping the sauce with cheese, give it an additional 10 minutes or so in the oven for the cheese to melt.

When he ain't stirring Polenta, Ian Finn be doing THIS.

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