My boyfriend is officially cheating on me with Polenta.
I recently cooked it for him, and now he wants it every night!
We were in the grocery store last week looking for a side to accompany my BBQ chicken that night, I thought some sort of starch would be appropriate since we were still sweating from our prior run at Gables track. I suggested polenta and he responded with a cross look. He replied that he thought we were only eating steamed veggies with the chicken, but I was hungry man. I did not run on the track just to come home to poultry and veggies…I know it’s contradicting in a way but, that’s the way I think. I like to have a little reward for running my heart out. And honestly, the only reason I exercise is so I can eat as much fabulous food as I like.
I ASSURED him he has NOT tasted my polenta, so I won this case. After all, he has enjoyed everything I’ve cooked….so far. I mean it’s not like I was trying to puree something with shaved black truffles (well at least not that night). I totally forgot how cheap polenta is, it was about $2 or $3 and serves roughly, 10 side servings. You can EVEN buy corn meal for under $2, which is essentiallythe same thing. Ok, well if you make my secret, boyfriend Scott Conant’s version with fricasseed truffle mushrooms it may cost you a little extra – in my opinion SO worth it.
Now, I am super into reading food blogs, magazines, online articles, anything related to my favorite hobby of eating. However, I’ve yet to seen one trendy recipe for the “corny” thing. Of course, when you type polenta into Food Network’s search engine, tons of recipes for this Italian dish appear. In this economy why has this delicious dish not been the hot topic? It’s not beef bourguignon for crying out loud, this thing takes under 30 minutes to make…what now, Rachel Ray?
One of the many things I love about polenta is that is tastes like grits but… much more sophisticated. This is seriously the easiest most elegant and economical food out there. You can dress it up, or dress it down , eat as a side or make a meal out of it. It’s as flexible as Aly Raisman. I usually make polenta the classic way, but I skipped the heavy cream and butter since I was kind of, sort of, trying to watch my figure. While I was cooking this, I asked my boyfriend for milk. The sweet tooth sucker put almond milk in the pot! I almost strangled him, but to my pleasant surprise the results were shocking. Next thing I knew….I had the best dish of polenta ever that night. ”Our” take is even healthier than most you will read about. It has no butter (Sorry Paula Deen) or olive oil.
The basic ingredients for 6 servings:
1 & 1/2 c. of Polenta or Cornmeal
4 cups of Boling hot agua
The oh so special ingredient: 1-2c. of Almond Milk
It would not be Italian if it did not have 1c. of Parmesan Cheese
Salt, salt and more salt…I did not use butter so, it needed it
1 tbsp. of pepper and 1 tsp. of sweet basil (my latest and greatest favorite spice)
You know it was coming…White Truffle Oil! I put 2 or 3 tbsp. in the mix, and drizzled 1 tsp. on top of mine
Some Parsley to make your plate look pretty
That is all you need for the base of your polenta. My boyfriend sautéed 2 cups of chopped mushrooms (those things shrink dude) and 1 cup of minced onions in olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper and sweet basil. He put it to the side and we topped the polenta with the mixture.
Other topping/mix in suggestions:
Dried Porcini mushrooms are a hit in this! I personally think they knock baby bellas out of the park
Any vegetables or sun-dried tomatoes would be “delish” and ideal for vegetarians
Don’t think parmesan is the only cheese for this, go gouda, goat or grab whatever tickles your fancy
Seriously, anything you have in your fridge will most likely work…don’t blame me if peanut butter tastes weird.
I was so starving so I made this, as my mother’s boyfriend’s says, double-quick.
Once your pot is bubbling with water,turn it on medium lowish heat.
Slowly add in polenta/cornmeal and keep whisking.
When it is all incorporated add in the milk. You’ll notice the color of this polenta will start to lighten in color, don’t be scared it WILL taste yummy.
If you are mixing shrimp, dried mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes or veggies into it (as opposed to sauteing first) please add in now.
Now, keep mixing and just add in the cheese and spices.
Give it a taste test, if it tastes weird or like it’s missing something to your liking than frekin’ fix it. Man I don’t know how you like your polenta. My boyfriend thought it was necessary to add at least about 2 tbsp. of salt.
put the polenta in a small bowl or plate and add
the sautéed mixture on top to look presentable. Throw some chopped parsley
on top, a little more parm, pepper and naturally
some truffle oil
or add shaved truffles
if you are as slick as Mario Batali.
This polenta goes down even smoother with a glass of your favorite red or white wine.
Your dish should look something like this
You are done son, so hopefully that took only about 20 minutes (not including the time it took to boil the water). Again, as you all know, I don’t follow time which is completely why my family members tell me to come to dinners and gatherings a half hour earlier than they really start.
Hmm…not so hard for a 5 star CHEAP meal.
Once the polenta is cooked, you can take your culinary skills up a notch and fry or bake it. To help you better understand how much you can do with this, just think about cornmeal and all of the uses. You can use it in any batter whether it’s for cookies, breads, crusting something….I can go on and on. Polenta is extremely practical to make a dinner out of too. If you’re a plain jane kind of person forget all the toppings and extra ingredients, it will still taste fantastic using the basic ingredients above.
A couple of weeks ago, while watching my favorite show, The Chew. Michael Symon made a giant batch and had different toppings according to how each chef liked their ”corny” dish prepared. This is also a suitable idea for any type of party. It would be fun to have a buffet of different ingredients to allow guests choose their preferred topping…kinda like ice cream sundae station meets Italian.
Polenta is perfect for anyone trying to impress guests or friends-especially if you are on a budget. Check out Giada’s poletna and chicken tartlets for your next extravaganza. Remember my recipe was on the light” side, so I ate it with my Light, BBQ Chicken for a savory and sweet dinner. Bon Apetit!
Do not underestimate and undervalue the power of polenta.