Sometimes we need a change from mashed potatoes, rice, and bread. We need a starchy side that will please our carb cravings. What better than polenta, aka corn mush.
Polenta is essentially mushy corn meal grains that have been cooked in boiling water. Add some buttah and Parmesan cheese, and you got yourself a winner.
This recipe is for a basic polenta, but you can make it any way you like. You can use chicken broth, add some heavy cream, throw in some sauteed garlic, throw in some rosemary and crushed red chili flakes. The possibilities are as endless as your creative palette.
You can buy any type of corn meal you want. Fine grain, coarse grain. It doesn’t matter, it’s all corn mush. It’s also known as ‘harina de maiz’ in Spanish. Don’t buy masa harina, though. That’s a whole different creature that is used for making tamales.
Polenta should be served hot, or it can be refrigerated to form crisp polenta cakes the next day.
Here’s what you need.
Cornmeal, water, and butter. And some cheese if you want.
In a pot of simmering water, add some salt. It’s for flavor.
While whisking the boiling water vigorously, slowly add the corn meal. It’ll get thick fast.
When it’s combined well, it’ll look like this.
See? I said it’d get thick fast. Now, continue stirring it while it cooks. If it gets too thick, add more water. Not too much, just about 1/2 cup at a time. Taste the polenta after 10 minutes to check for doneness. It should taste cooked and not be grainy.
To form firm polenta for the next day’s polenta cakes, pour some prepared polenta into a butter dish.
Wrap for plastic wrap and let cool before refrigerating overnight. Set aside for polenta cakes.
Now if you don’t want to make polenta cakes and you just want creamy corn mush, add a few tablespoons of butter.
This is for flavor and for decadence. Mhm.
It’ll look a lot smoother after the butter is whisked in.
Serve her right up. Pronto.
Don’t forget to sprinkle some Parmesan cheese over the top. Grind some black pepper, too, if you so desire.
Here’s the recipe below. Enjoy a nice vacation from rice, mashed potatoes, and cliche carbs.
Total Time: 18 minutes
Prep: 0 min
Cook: 18 min
Yield: 4 servings
1 cup medium or fine cornmeal
Table salt and freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated parmesan cheese (optional)
In a medium-size pot over high heat, bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Add 1 teaspoon salt. While stirring with a wire whisk or wooden spoon, slowly add cornmeal into water. Continue whisking as polenta mixture thickens, about 2 minutes. Turn heat to medium low and cook for at least 10 minutes, stirring about every minute or so. Cook polenta no longer than 15 minutes.*
Add 4-6 tablespoons of butter to pot and stir well. Serve immediately or transfer to a bowl resting over a pot of barely simmering water over low heat. Cover and keep warm for up to an hour. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, if desired.
For firm polenta cakes, pour polenta into a greased deep dish, spreading polenta evenly for a 1-inch thickness all around. Chill overnight.
*If polenta becomes too thick, add ½ cup of water and stir well. Add up to 1 cup more water, if needed, to keep polenta soft enough to stir. To test for doneness, cornmeal grains should look larger than before and taste soft and cooked, not having a grainy or rough mouthfeel. Add salt and pepper to taste.