How to Make Polenta–Simply

Occasionally, my mom will call me up to check in on me. Since she is grazing those years between hot Asian lady and grandma, more and more often, she calls to ask me if I’ve eaten. Mostly, she is happy that I cook and feed myself. She is also always astonished to hear about what I’m cooking and wants me to spell out letter by letter anything that is not a Chinese dish we had growing up. So this recipe, P-O-L-E-N-T-A is dedicated to you, mom.

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Polenta can be shaped to be the vehicle for other food.

Polenta, when done well, is a beautiful, creamy, cornmeal that makes anything else you make taste heavenly. It is versatile, like risotto. And it takes patience, like risotto. You can add different ingredients or spices to it to give it a flavor other than its Italian heritage. You need to constantly stir it, and put love into it. It’s okay to get lost in the infinite swirls your spoon makes and reflect upon your day, existence, or the universe. This is the power of polenta. But it’ll always bring you back to the present because if you don’t stir it well, it is easy for it to burn and clump up at the bottom.

Ingredients

  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 1/2 cup dried cornmeal
  • 1+1+1 cups broth
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk or milk or cream
  • pinch of salt and black pepper

Heat the olive oil on medium high. Saute the onion for 5 minutes until translucent.

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onions in the pot

Turn down the heat to a low-medium. Add the dried cornmeal, and let it soak up the juice of the onion and oil.

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Soaking up juices

Next add 1 cup of broth to the pot. This is when the stirring begins. You must keep a steady hand, making sure nothing sticks to the bottom. As the mixture starts to get thick and dry up. When it starts to dry up, add another cup of broth. If you’re cooking many dishes at once, turn the heat off if you can’t continue to stir it. Don’t worry, it’ll wait for you.

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Steam rising. Perpetually stirring.

Once the mixture becomes soft, not crunchy, and is a thick consistency, add the coconut milk or milk or cream. Allow it to heat up and mix thoroughly until you get a creamy porridge. Season to taste.

ImageThis recipe easily makes 4 servings. Modify polenta for the season. Add snap peas and nettles in the spring. Add mushrooms in the fall. Make a southwestern style chili polenta by spicing it up with dried chipotle and ancho chilis! The possibilities are endless.

ImagePolenta is easy to plate and make pretty. Take leftover dry polenta and bake or pan fry little cakes! Recipe to come!

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