Polenta is one of those comfort foods that I adore, yet I seem to forget about it most of the time. It’s humble food – there’s nothing really flashy about this thick corn porridge, yet it can be dressed up into something marvelous with very few ingredients.
In November, I was reminded about how much I love polenta at the Safe & Sound Allergy-Free Dinner at Chicago’s BOKA restaurant. One of the courses in the awesome meal included a few cubes of the creamiest polenta I’ve ever had. They were crisp on the outside, but soft and creamy inside. I could have eaten a whole bowl of those little cubes. I’ve been pondering how Chef Tentori achieved this culinary marvel (without any dairy at all) and I’m guessing he was using a much more finely ground polenta than what I had in the pantry for this recipe.
I’m no Chef Tentori, but my polenta is quite tasty and fills the bill when the craving for comfort food hits. After you roast the polenta, it’s lovely and crisp on the outside and still soft inside. YUM. One batch of polenta makes a lot, so you can make these lovely polenta wedges and dip in that fabulous tomato butter sauce, while having plenty of leftovers to say – spread some olive tapenade on, or make openface polenta pizzas. The possibilities are wide open with polenta as your culinary blank slate.
1 1/2 cups corn polenta
4 cups water
1 T butter
2 T olive oil (I used the garlic oil from my mojo de ajo)
3 T half & half
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 tsp kosher salt
- Heat a large non-stick skillet (that has a lid) over high heat. Pour in the water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and slowly pour in the polenta, stirring constantly. Add the butter, thyme and rosemary. Cook for about 10 minutes, until all the water is absorbed and the polenta begins to pull away from the edges of the pan.
- Add the half & half, pepper 1 tsp salt, cayenne and most of the grated parmesan (leave a little bit for garnishing later) – stir to incorporate.
- Spray a half sheet pan (or 9×13 baking pan) with olive oil. Turn the cooked polenta out into the sheet pan, and gently smooth the polenta into one layer using a spatula. Sprinkle on the reserved parmesan cheese and then chill the polenta until you’re ready to prepare dinner – at least 3 hours, so the polenta has time to firm up.
- Roasting the polenta: Preheat the broiler. Remove the polenta from the fridge, and turn the polenta out onto a large cutting board. Cut into desired shapes – slender fingers or large triangles for a main course. Lightly spray the sliced polenta with olive oil. Place the polenta on a sheet pan, and broil for 15 minutes, turning the pieces over halfway through. Serve piping hot.
268 cal/serving, 100 cal from fat, 11.3g fat, 15mg cholesterol, 25mg potassium, 33g carbs, 3g fiber, 6.7g protein