Don’t knock it until you try it! I’ve seen polenta numerous times on cooking shows and became quite curious. I hadn’t observed any dishes being prepared in step by step type of segments, rather have seen it more often on the shows that are the competition type and I’ve only been able to observe it in short, divided parts of the preparations. According to Wikipedia, Polenta is cornmeal (grits! I love grits!) boiled into a porridge and eaten directly or baked, fried or grilled. Polenta is an Italian word, derived from the Latin for hulled and crushed grain.
Some time ago I purchased some Polenta already prepared in a tubular type of package from the grocery store and served it simply sliced and warmed. I didn’t really know what it was at the time and neither liked or disliked it. I just thought it wasn’t very exciting and thought it was bland. I have eaten it out in a creamy form under an entrée where it was good, but had not made the effort to look into it more. When we visited the Brazilian Grill recently, they served Polenta in fried little sticks and it was actually one of the few things I enjoyed that night!
Those little sticks inspired me to pick some up in the raw at the grocery store and do a little research… First, I guess I didn’t realize it was corn and not a grain or pasta. It is cooked by simmering in a water-based liquid for a long time, sometimes with other ingredients and eaten with them once cooked. After reading the package, it connected that Polenta is not only served as a soft, thick mush, but can also be left to set, then baked or fried. It can be topped with sauce of any type, much like you would use on pasta.
The directions said to use water, but I have an abundance of homemade chicken stock in the freezer, which makes everything taste more flavorful so I went with that. I’ve also prepared “cheesy” grits a few times recently, so I decided to wing it with items I had on hand, and added some Gruyere. I had a bit of concern that it may not set up, but fortunately it worked perfectly! These are great! I encourage you to give them a try!
4 Cups Chicken Stock, homemade is best!
1 1/4 Cup Polenta
1 Tablespoon Better than Bouillon, Chicken flavor
3/4 Cups Gruyere Cheese, shredded
In a deep pan, heat stock to a boil and gradually stir in grits. Cover and reduce to a simmer. Stir frequently for about 30 minutes or so. The package recommends a long-handled wooden spoon because the Polenta will spit and splatter and could cause burns. I used my dutch oven and had to turn the heat very low, since the pot gets very hot.
Spray a deep medium-sized bowl with non-stick cooking spray (or use oil) and pour in the cooked Polenta. Allow it to sit for ten minutes on the counter to set up before inverting on a flat plate. I’ve since seen it done in a prepared jelly roll or cookie sheet and cut into cubes.
Once you unmold it, it should hold it’s shape. You can cut it into slices and serve hot.
Top with sauce. I made cubed chicken with a mango curry sauce.
If you haven’t added cheese, I would recommend adding a couple of tablespoons of butter once cooked and top it with shredded cheese of any type, depending on the flavors of your sauce.