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No-stir polenta

This is a great technique, way less work than the usual stir, stir, stir, and the results are just as good. I adapted it from a recipe in Paula Wolfert's "Mediteranean Grains and Greens." She adapted her recipe from one on the back of a bag of Polenta Company of San Francisco polenta. The owner of the company told her it was "an old paesan's mother's recipe from Tuscany."

2 tbsp. corn oil
2 cups Anson Mills Rustic Coarse Polenta Integrale or similar
9 cups water
2 tsp. salt

Put all ingredients in a dutch oven and stir until blended. Bake uncovered at 350 for 80 minutes, stir and bake another 10 minutes.

This makes a moderately soft polenta. If you want it firm for slicing, use only 7 cups water.

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  1. Wow! Do you figure the oil is what keeps it from lumping? That's the only non-standard thing about the recipe. Does Ms. Wolfert have anything to say about it?

    (Also--Do you send away for your Anson Mills polenta, or is there a source in the SF Bay Area?)

    4 Replies
    1. re: heidipie

      I don't think it's the oil; I make the same recipe from Paula Wolfert but I use butter. It comes out perfect every time, and it's great for dinner parties. You can make it as soft or as stiff as you like. Stirring it near the end is what I think keeps it from lumping. Definitely worth trying this method.

      1. re: heidipie

        I think Anson Mills products are only available online. The Integrale is pretty amazing stuff.

        1. re: rootlesscosmo

          I have bought Anson Mills polenta from Boulette's Larder but have been purchasing it from Anson since then. Not exactly on line since you get to talk to the guy on the phone to get it now.

          1. re: wally

            It's cheaper to buy direct so I get a big order and freeze it.

      2. Here's another no-stir polenta recipe. It's from Sara Moulton, and is baked rather than done on the stovetop. Here's a paraphrased recipe--

        4 cups water
        1 cup yellow cornmeal or regular (but not instant) coarse polenta
        2 tbsp. unsalted butter, thinly sliced
        1 tsp. Kosher salt
        1/2 tsp. freshly milled black pepper
        2 oz. provolone cheese, grated (about 1/2 cup)
        2 oz parmesan cheese, finely grated

        Oven to 350F. Mix water, cornmeal/polenta, butter, salt, and pepper in a medium-sized baking dish. Do not cover. Bake on the uppermost shelf of the oven for 40 minutes.

        Take the dish out of the oven, stir; bake for 10 more minutes.

        Take the dish out of the oven, again; stir in provolone and salt and pepper. Let stand five minutes.

        Top with parmesan.

        (This is good also with mozzarella substituted for provolone. The original recipe recommends topping with cooked tomatoes, mushrooms, or artichokes.)

        Yum! No work! :-)

        3 Replies
        1. re: expatslat

          That's basically the same recipe, only half the quantity. Does it work well?

          I bet she got that from Wolfert's book, since I saw Moulton make polenta on her TV show maybe three years ago and she remarked about how time-consuming it was.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            Yes, it works very well, especially for lazy people like me. Interesting that Wolfert originated it!

            1. re: expatslat

              She didn't, as I detailed in my opening post. Though she definitely popularized the technique.

        2. And if you don't feel like heating up the oven, put it in the rice cooker. No stirring needed.

          1. Will a single-switch cooker work "automatically", or do you have to be able to program it like the Zojis?

            4 Replies
            1. re: MikeG

              I have an automatic with no settings, so haven't experiemented. I give it one stir near the end when I check it and haven't had any problems.

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                Just to get this straight - what sort of recipe would you use for the rice cooker? A no-stir one like the OP's? Or a standard recipe? I'd love to be able to do polenta in a rice cooker - how brilliant would that be?

                1. re: Nyleve

                  I have a no-stick rice cooker, so I use a standard stove-top recipe of polenta, water and salt (no oil), but I'm sure the oil doesn't hurt.

                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    I don't have a rice cooker...has anyone tried a no-stir recipe with a slow cooker (or is there a different recipe for slow cookers?)?

            2. Questions:
              Is the Anson Mills a whole grain product? Is this polenta just ground corn, that is not processed in any way?
              I buy Pheasant brand polenta in a paper bag from my local Independant Grocer. It works well, but is degermed, I'm sure.

              I cook it in the microwave and it comes out fine to my taste. Only a couple of stirs midway. Seasoned with butter, cheese and herbs after it comes out. I use fresh and soft for dinner, or spread it on a sheet pan thinly to use for a lasagne-type stacked casserole.

              1 Reply
              1. re: toodie jane

                "Integrale" means whole-grain. Anson Mills Rustic Coarse Polenta Integrale is whole-grain. Some of their other products are not.


              2. yes, after posting my above questions, I decided to check the Anson Mills website, and have learned a lot about corn.

                Always wondered what 'flint' and 'dent' corns were....

                these are pricey, but I'll try some though I have a feeling it'll spoil me forever....oh, great, another food fetish.

                I wonder if dent corn is available for home grinding....

                Thanks Robert for your post; I hope to improve my polenta.

                1 Reply
                1. re: toodie jane

                  I wouldn't be surprised if they'll sell whole grains by special request. Oliveto, the Oakland, CA, restaurant where I first had this stuff, has since switched to grinding their own polenta fresh daily. They keep the grains in the freezer for maximum freshness.

                2. Thanks, Melanie, this definitely warrants investigation! I imagine it'd do well for grits, too.

                  1. I made the no-stir polenta last night. It was convenient to just let it do its own thing in the oven while I had alot going on on the stove.
                    I found the texture was not the same as when cooked on the stove -- it was smoother, more like cream of wheat. Good, but I think next time I'll go back to Marcella's "no stir" method, which is prepared on the stove and you stir every 10 minutes or so.

                    1. I remember seeing a recipe that made the Polenta in a slow cooker. Does anyone have the info on that technique?

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: Fleur

                        I'm resurrecting this old thread as I have been experimenting with crock pot polenta. The best rendition I came up with was the 4 parts water to 1 part polenta on low for 6 hours. It wasn't creamy, but it wasn't coarse either. Every attempt had a gummy consistency which I disliked. However, once I added butter and cheese the gummyness was less noticeable and it was a good compromise should I want comfort food in the middle of the week, I;m not sure I'd serve it to company. OTOH, it makes for a good hard polenta that you can cut, fry or broil and it is so much cheaper than the tubes you can purchase in the store. I have used the oven no stir method as well as the microwave method and really like both a lot.

                        1. re: free sample addict aka Tracy L

                          Tracy L,

                          I haven't tried it yet, but Anson Mills has crock pot/slow cooker recipes for both grits and polenta, http://www.ansonmills.com/recipes-cor....

                          They say high setting, rather than the low you are using -- 90 minutes for their polenta, and 2 hours 10 to 15 for their grits.

                          I was looking through this board to see if anyone else has tried this approach and found your post. When I get a chance to try it, I'll post my results.

                          1. re: souvenir

                            Thanks, I'll check it out. I've been craving polenta lately.

                            1. re: souvenir

                              I've been cooking Anson Mills stone ground grits in my small 1 1/2 quart crockpot. Got it for about $7 at Wal-Mart, so it doesn't have any bells or whistles.
                              It is however just the right size to cook 1 cup of dry grits to 3 cups of water as Anson Mills recommends. It takes longer than they say. Usually about 3 1/3 hours.
                              Don't care. I always forget to soak grits overnight and then I can't have them. This way I can. They're not as good if you don't soak them before cooking on the stovetop, but they come out fine in the crockpot.
                              Not sure how that small quantity would do in a big 6-qt crockpot though. It would only be 1/2 deep, which might be why it cooks much faster.

                              1. re: MakingSense

                                Thanks! It is good to read about your experience. I am planning to try 1 cup dry in a 4 qt crockpot. I'll allow for 3 hours on high, but start watching more carefully from 2 hours on. How often do you end up stirring it?

                                1. re: souvenir

                                  I stir it when I first put the dry grits into the water to separate the loose flakes. Scoop them off the top of the water.
                                  Then I stir after an hour or two. And every hour or so until they're done.
                                  Nothing sacred here. If I forget, I forget. They've always done fine.

                        2. I tried Robert's no-stir formula, but I didn't have an hour and a half, so I heated the water to near boiling on the stove before sticking it in the oven. It was basically one giant lump surrounded by water when I checked it after a half-hour, but I was able to whisk it smooth, mostly. If that was due to my cheating, then mea culpa, but if that's what happens, I'd just as soon do it on the stove.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: heidipie

                            the meal needs to absorb the water slowly. but it's no harder than baking a potato. i use a small oblong pyrex dish, like 9x11 or so, stick it in the oven and forget about it. for years i rarely made polenta because of the stirring, spitting of hot lava-like almost ready stuff, sticky spoons and encrusted pot.

                            this method is dead easy.

                          2. this is the only way i make polenta anymore. i use store-bought goya cornmeal, and use about 1/2 fine and 1/2 coarse. i vary the amount of water depending on whether i'm serving it firm or soft. it comes out great every time. never fail.

                            you just need to pay attention to the proportions, not the quantity here. 2 cups dry makes a boatload of polenta. i more often use 1/2 cup cornmeal and about 2 cups water. cooked polenta also freezes quite well.

                            1. I made polenta this way recently while also doing the Zuni mock porchetta recipe--same oven temperature! Really fabulous.

                              1. This sounds like the start of many worthwhile recipes. I can't think of anything easier or more adaptable.

                                1. Microwave Polenta from Cooks Illustrated
                                  Jan 1998

                                  Makes 3-1/2 cups

                                  Paraphrased recipe

                                  1 cup medium-grind cornmeal
                                  3-1/2 cups water
                                  1 teaspoon table salt


                                  Use a 2-quart Pyrex measuring cup.
                                  Mix the cornmeal, water and salt well
                                  in measuring cup. Cover with plastic wrap.
                                  Microwave cornmeal, water and salt,
                                  covered with plastic wrap, at
                                  100% power for 6 minutes.

                                  Uncover and stir well. Continue
                                  microwaving at 100% power for
                                  5 - 6 minutes longer, until
                                  polenta is creamy and cooked.

                                  1. Slow cooker polenta is great, much better than stovetop or oven preparation. Followed this recipe exactly, but added the cheese (parnesan) at the end w/ butter.
                                    At 1hr 40 min had perfect polenta.I did stir once every 30 min and used anson mills corn meal. Creamier than I ever expected, better than when I used to stir it for for an hour.


                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: free sample addict aka Tracy L

                                      I find dry toasting the polenta in a pan until it's a bit smokey ( or a lot smokey ) adds another layer of depth to my polenta - however it's cooked.