Polenta Snobs - Educate Me
True confessions - I am a 45-minute polenta cooker. I have it in the pot just long enough to lose that raw-corn flavor and get nice and congealy, add butter, put my ragu or whatever on top, and serve. And so far the results have been pretty tasty.
But then I hear about multi-hour polenta-cooking marathons and various Italians who wail that polenta cooked for less than X hours is total trash and not worth eating. So, I ask you, what does this extra time investment get you, exactly? How much difference does it really make? Wouldn't all the liquid just evaporate out and leave the rest to burn?
I'm willing to learn, but if you're going to turn a weeknight meal quick starch into a weekend-only extended production you'd better have some pretty convincing arguments.
I've done the multi-hour version in an improvized double boiler, with a lid. So there is little, if any evaporation. Instead the corn absorbs the water. While start with a 3:1 or 4:1 water ratio, I add water during the long cooking, ending up with something closer to 5 or 6:1. Simply put, the longer cooking lets the corn absorb more water. This is a more significant issue if using a coarser grind.
I have had the same curiosity as you. I don't even take 45 minutes to cook polenta. I don't make it too often, when I do it's usually as an alternative to pasta which I also don't make too often anymore (the whole starch thing). The only thing I can figure is that those that cook it for such extended periods of time must start out with a whole lot more liquid than do I.