Polenta is one of those great go to foods when you need to make something quick. It is a tasty porridge made from course cornmeal. At most basic, polenta is a simple creamy corn mash cooked with water and salt.
But this humble cornmeal does not have to be plan. It can be jazzed up using flavor variations like stocks, butter, cheese and herbs.
It is commonly served Italian style with a tomato sauce and sausage, but it can also be served with fish, shellfish, poultry, beef, pork or in a vegetarian meal.
Once a simple peasant staple, polenta has gained popularity as a gourmet food that can be seen on menus at upscale restaurants to college dorms alike.
There are a few ways to serve polenta beside for a hot mash.
The high starch content of cornmeal makes cooked polenta form into a solid mass when cooled.
Hot polenta porridge is spread onto a sheet pan and allowed to cooled. Once cooled, the firm polenta can then be cut into shapes and saute’, deep fried or grilled to provide a crisp outer texture.
Another way to serve polenta is in a casserole. Hot polenta is spread into a casserole dish then topped with sauce, vegetables, meat and cheese then baked.
Polenta is found in the bulk section in grocery stores, in instant mixes or in the refrigerated section of in precooked tubes. The cost is around $1.50 per pound, which measure about 2 3/4 cups or around $.20 per serving.
Basic Polenta Recipes: Serve Four
1 1/2 cup of Polenta cornmeal
4 1/2 cups of water
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon of butter (optional)
*use Olive Oil for vegan option
Bring the water to a boil in a sauce pan. Add the polenta, salt and butter and stir in. Bring the heat down to a medium. Cover the top of the pan loosely with tin foil. Stir frequently to make sure the polenta does not stick to the bottom of the pan. Cook for 20 minutes.
Substitute one cup of milk for water in the basic recipe and include the butter. Include 1-2 cups of a mixture of grated cheese like Cheddar, Jack, Parmesan and Fontina. Follow the instruction for the basic recipe then stir in the cheese during the last three minutes of cooking. Garnish with grated Parmesan.
Polenta with tomato sauce and sausage:
Use the basic or cheese polenta recipe. Cook a pound of your favorite sausage like sweet or hot Italian sausage and serve with about a third of a cup of your favorite heated tomato sauce per serving and top with grated Parmesan.
Mushroom Polenta: (Vegan)
Use the basic recipe and substitute olive oil for butter. Saute one finely chopped onion, two cloves of garlic and one and half pounds of your favorite mushrooms for seven minutes. Add a quarter teaspoon of dried thyme, and a quarter cup of white wine and cook down. Add salt and pepper to taste. Top with fresh chopped parsley and divide a half cup of toasted pine nuts or almonds between four servings.
Polenta and Shrimp:
Use the basic or cheese polenta recipe and add the juice of one lemon, fresh cracked pepper and one teaspoon of smoked paprika when cooking the polenta . Peel and clean three quarters of a pound of shrimp and saute in butter or olive oil with two cloves of garlic till the shrimp is pink on booth sides.
Serve the polenta in a bowl. Divide the shrimp between four bowls and top with fresh chopped scallion.