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Jan 15, 2011 12:15 PM

Most Creative Polenta

What is the most creative Polenta or use for polenta going beyond a plain polenta side dish you have come up with. I think it is an under utilized dish just curious what people have come up with.

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  1. Soft polenta with fresh corn and corn cream. When corn is in season, though I guess you could use frozen corn, I make soft polenta with cheddar and parmesan as well as some corn kernels. But the best part is taking the kernels off a few ears of corn, pureeing them in the processor and then straining just the liquid from that into the polenta. Turrns into a thick, sweet cream that makes the polenta to die for.

    2 Replies
    1. re: escondido123

      sounds awesome! at what point do you add the cheese and the corn cream?

      1. re: ChristinaMason

        When you feel it is just about done, you want the cheese and corn cream to have about five minutes to meld. Then just pour it onto plates or shallow bowls and serve. Of course it could be a side dish but I make it a course in itself!

    2. Polenta with Hormel beanless chili on top. Tastes similar to a tamale.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Antilope

        I made something similar once. The combination of chili and cornmeal is killer!

        1. re: ChristinaMason

          It sure is! I sometimes bake chili with a cornmeal bread "crust". Using polenta as a base is another interesting approach for these two foods that love one another.

          PS I suspect beans + corn could combine to make a complete protein. Yep, did a quick google search and they do form a complete protein.

        2. re: Antilope

          Ooh, that's a great idea! I never would have thought of chili over polenta. Beef stew would be great too, I'll bet.

        3. Just found out that Nicole's, the French market in South Pasadena, has good polenta at a good price, so I'm going to do some next time I roast a duck, probably with braised kale. I think I'll not have it soft for this, but chill it, cut it up and fry it crisp on the surface.

          And if I get impatient for a good duck, I'll just do this with a pork roast instead.

          7 Replies
          1. re: Will Owen

            When you say good polenta at a good price, do you mean the corn meal that is used for polenta? I buy mine at the grocery store and it's plenty cheap....what is different about the kind you will get at Nicoloe's?

            1. re: escondido123

              Different grind, basically. She's got it fairly coarse, and a finer grind which is still not as fine as regular American cornmeal. I forget whether either of these is whole-grain, but I'll check before I buy. I have a box of Albers cornmeal that I use for cornbread, but it's too fine for the mush I'm looking for.

              Surfas in Culver City has a wider range of polenta, but that's about 25 miles and an hour away.

              1. re: Will Owen

                Dont' bother making a major trip. I just went through all of me older, classic Italian cookbooks==inculding Bugialli--and they all just sprecify "corn meal" for their polentas. I guess the biggest question would be yellow or white.

                1. re: escondido123

                  I insist on making the trip; I've made mush with regular supermarket cornmeal and it's much too fine. I used that when I was doing my scrapple experiment, and that was one of the two things wrong with the result. Polenta is supposed to have some texture, like steelcut oatmeal. Those "older, classic" cookbooks call for cornmeal because when they were published that was all that was available here. It's like those '50s Chinese recipes that call for sherry.

                  1. re: Will Owen

                    WO, i know most of us don't really mind having an excuse to head to Surfas, but you know you can save yourself the trip & order from them online, right? given the price of gas these days and the amount of time you can waste sitting in traffic, paying for shipping might be a worthwhile expense:

                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                      That's what I was going to suggest but then you don't get to wander the aisles sampling olive oils and vinegars and ending up spending waaaaaaaaay too much money. ;>

                    2. re: Will Owen

                      When you say polenta should have some texture, is this a personal preference, or an Italian standard? I've seen references to fine, medium, and coarse ground polenta (or to picky, corn for polenta).


            2. I like to make polenta, preferably with cheese, and pour it into a baking dish. I let it set up a bit, while I finish the rest of the dish: meats, vegetables, sometimes a light sauce, or cheese, and then I bake it. Some of my favorites (in different combinations) are sausage, spinach, mushrooms, sliced or chopped tomatoes (tomato and polenta are especially good together), mashed beans (I use either white or black), and sauteed onions and peppers. I usually top it with additional cheese.

              A poached or fried egg or two is also really good on polenta, especially if you crumbles some ham or bacon into the polenta, and make sure to season the cornmeal with some cayenne.

              Roasted garlic, thoroughly mixed with the cooking liquid used in the polenta is also nice.

              1. How about flavoring it with molasses and butter, and baking it long and slow (Indian pudding)?

                Or with eggs, fresh corn, and baked (spoon bread)?

                Italians sweeten it, stir in fruit and eat it for supper or breakfast. Another Italian dish adds chopped cabbage and beans to the polenta (polenta 'in-chains').

                17 Replies
                1. re: paulj

                  I'm sensing that people use the term polenta and cornmeal as if they were the same thing--when they aren't.

                  1. re: escondido123

                    What's the difference? Other than country?

                    As I understand it, polenta is a broad Italian term for porridge, that in the past has been made from wheat and other grains and chestnuts, though corn is now the most common base. Italians may also prefer their local flint corn for the purpose, but that's no reason to say polenta and cornmeal mush aren't the same thing.

                    1. re: paulj

                      My question was why people were calling cornmeal and polenta the same thing--note I did not include the word "mush" in there. I agree that cornmeal mush and polenta are the same thing, but that is not what people typed.

                      1. re: escondido123

                        In Italian, are there separate words for the ground corn, and the cooked porridge?

                        1. re: paulj

                          farina di granoturco is Italian for corn meal.......and that is something you use to make polenta and other dishes both sweet and savory.

                          1. re: escondido123

                            Is this Mario Batali recipe for Polenta Dolce a problem?
                            He uses "quick-cooking polenta (use yellow or white)"

                            Here's a polenta dolce recipe (in Italian) that uses 'farina di granoturco'

                            In American usage, polenta refers both to cornmeal, and its use in an Italian style dish. Sometimes the raw 'polenta' is coarser than cornmeal commonly used for cornbread, in which case may also be called 'grits'. The terminology isn't very consistent, and makes people think there are differences that really aren't there. We are just too lazy to say 'cornmeal for polenta'.

                            1. re: paulj

                              I have a box of hominy grits in my frig. Next to it is a box of yellow corn meal. They don't look the same or taste the same---they are not the same thing. As to the use of the word "polenta" to describe the corn meal used to make polenta, that appears to be a pretty new approach to selling finely ground corn meal to people who want to make polenta by calling it "polenta." But you feel free to call it what you want and I'll do the same. No need to argue about it.

                        2. re: escondido123

                          It's hard for me to tell exactly what you're getting at. And it's also confusing when you say "people" instead of citing a specific example. Can you clarify what you take issue with, and how you believe the terms should be used correctly? Not trying to be argumentative, so I hope I am not coming off as such!

                          1. re: operagirl

                            I asked my Italian husband about this issue. He said the dry stuff in the box called "Instant Polenta" has in fact been processed--much like instant rice--so it is more like dried polenta than the corn meal you would use to make polenta the slow way.

                            1. re: escondido123

                              Instant polenta? Never seen that one.

                                  1. re: c oliver

                                    Interesting that Batalli would suggest it on his Food Network recipes yet at his restaurant, the line chefs say they cook polenta for 3 hours!

                                    1. re: escondido123

                                      You didn't mean to reply to me, did you? But I can't imagine cooking polenta for three hours. Holey moley.

                                      1. re: c oliver

                                        I know it is amazing. I've tried cooking corn meal for an hour versus for 20 minutes and I really haven't seen a big difference. But 3 hours....maybe it becomes ambrosia!

                                        1. re: c oliver

                                          If it's regular cornmeal that normally requires 40 minutes, you get better hydration if you continue to cook it much longer. I've done this in an improvised double boiler, adding water if it gets too stiff. I end up with a 5:1 water ratio.

                                          1. re: paulj

                                            I do a 6:1 ratio in the oven (thanks, thew) and it takes about 30-40 minutes. That's for creamy.