Rosemary Polenta

Ooooooh me likey polenta! Where have you been all my life? If you've never had polenta, it's basically corn meal mixed with some milk and chicken stock or water to help loosen it up. It's what Italians eat in place of mashed potatoes and what southerners eat as grits, if that helps you visualize it at all. If you like cornbread then I think you'll like polenta. This was my first time making it and I think I cooked it incorrectly but it didn't matter because the flavor was awesome. The rosemary and red pepper flakes rounded out the dish and made it warm and comforting.

Polenta is a blank canvas so you can add whatever flavors you like and eat it whichever way you like - baked, fried, or even soft like porridge and mashed potatoes. Apparently you're suppose to stir, stir, stir the polenta like risotto for about half an hour but I stopped after ten minutes since it was looking like a loose porridge and tasted yummy. Next time I'll have to try the full half hour and see how that turns out. If you want to serve polenta as a substitute for mashed potatoes you must serve it the second you take it off the stove because it'll get thick right away when you serve it. However if you're going to let it cool and cut into squares then it's great to make ahead of time before guests arrive. This was a great new discovery and I am foreseeing many more meals with polenta in the future!!

Here are a few more variations recommended by Heidi from 101 Cookbooks:

- Cut the polenta slab into small cubes and pan-fry them in a little bit of oil until you've got a crunchy crouton - perfect for salads and soups.

- Cut it into cookie-sized rounds, layer them in a casserole with a favorite pasta sauce and some cheese, bake, and you've got a great family-style dinner.

- Cut into little diamond-shapes or squares rubbed with olive oil or sprayed with olive oil PAM, grill or bake in 450 degree oven, middle rack, for 20 minutes or until golden and crispy OR try to broil the slices under the broiler until crispy. Flip once after ten minutes, and use as a crostini base.

Rosemary Polenta
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa
4-6 servings

• 2 tbs butter or (I can’t believe it’s not butter)
• 2 tbs olive oil
• 1/2 tablespoon minced garlic (2 cloves)
• 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
• 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
• 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
• 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 1.5 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
• 1 cups half-and-half
• 1 cups milk
• 1 cups medium grain coarse cornmeal (Bob's Red Mill Corn Grits Also Known As Polenta)
• 1/4 cup good grated Parmesan
• Flour, olive oil, and butter, for frying

Heat the butter and olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, rosemary, salt, and pepper and saute for 1 minute. Add the chicken stock, half-and-half, and milk and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and really slowly sprinkle the cornmeal into the hot milk while stirring constantly with a whisk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Polenta pops like lava when boiling, so exercise caution! Stir continuously, bringing the mixture up from the bottom of the pot and loosening it from the sides. The cornmeal becomes polenta in 35-45 minutes, when it forms a mass that pulls cleanly away from the sides of the pot Off the heat, stir in the Parmesan and season with more salt. Serve immediately if serving soft and hot.


For firm crispy polenta:
Pour hot polenta into a 9 by 13 by 2-inch pan, smooth the top, and refrigerate until firm and cold.

Cut the chilled polenta into 12 squares, as you would with brownies. Lift each one out with a spatula and cut diagonally into triangles. Dust each triangle lightly in flour. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a large saute pan and cook the triangles in batches over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes, turning once, until browned on the outside and heated inside. Add more butter and oil, as needed. Serve immediately.

Polenta Slices:
Method from back of Bob's Red Mill bag
Spoon hot polenta into a oiled bowl or 9 by 13 by 2-inch pan and let set for 10 minutes. Invert onto a flat plate, mixture will unmold and hold its shape. Cut poltenta into thick slices or squares and serve hot. Top with any sauce you desire or freshly grated cheese.