Everybody likes plain things. Well, so says my younger daughter. The other day I made some lovely cheesy polenta from this recipe here. If you haven’t read the delightful Katherine from Eggton, go a have look right now. Her dishes always look delicious, she makes me laugh and she has the cutest dogs on the internet, well, right behind my own helper. Dear husband and I declared the polenta delicious (I served it with a fresh garlicky tomato sauce and grilled eggplant.) but younger daughter thought the cheese was too cheesy. I think we all know how I feel about cheese. Growing up in Brazil, she was used to the small squares of polenta that were deep-fried and part of every churrascaria menu. So just a couple of days later, I obliged, making my own version which still comes out crispy, but is pan-fried with a little olive oil, making it much healthier. It met with approval.
1 cup or 170g polenta
1 vegetable (or chicken) stock cube
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (I used truffle salt I brought back from a trip to Italy but you couldn’t taste the tiny flecks of truffle at all so normal sea salt would be just fine.)
2 generous tablespoons butter
Olive oil for pan-frying
Find yourself a heat proof cylindrical vessel that will hold at least 2 1/2 cups or 600ml by volume. Slide in a small bag like you get in the grocery store for vegetables or one of those bags on a roll that still use twist ties.
Put three cups or 720ml of water into a large pot or saucepan. Add in the stock cube and the salt. Bring the water to a gentle boil and then add in the cup of polenta slowly, stirring constantly to prevent lumps from forming.
|I started to stir quickly after taking this photo. Couldn't snap and stir and pour at the same time. I need three hands!|
Keep stirring and cooking over a low fire until the polenta grains are completely soft, the water has been absorbed and the mixture gets fairly firm but you can still stir it. Remember that it will firm up even more as it cools.
Add in the butter and give it a few more good stirs.
Remove the pot from the heat and let it cool for a few minutes (because you don’t want to melt your plastic bag) and then carefully spoon the polenta into the plastic-bag-lined cylindrical container. Fold the top of the bag over so the polenta on the end doesn’t dry out and to smooth the end out.
|It's fairly flat on top, you just can't tell. I secured the bag down with a rubberband but forgot to take that photo.|
Allow to cool until stiff and then remove the bag of polenta from the container. It will finish cooling faster with the just the bag around it.
When the polenta is completely cooled, slice it into circles about 1/3 inch or just under one centimeter thick.
|You can cut that rough end off and just eat it. I did.|
|I got 13 slices out of my cylinder.|
Drizzle a little olive oil in a non-stick skillet and fry the polenta circles until crispy on both sides. Add a little more olive oil as you turn them over the first time.
Just keep flipping them over until they are nicely browned on both side.
|As they cooked a little and shrunk up, I was able to slip in that last one that didn't fit initially in the pan.|
Word of warning: I fried up store bought polenta (you know, the kind that comes in the tube) just like this back in July, as part of a meal out at my sister’s lake house. I made the mistake of leaving the crispy polenta visible and by the time we got around to eating, the tasty slices of pan-fried corn goodness were all gone. Scarfed up - with my three young nephews among the guilty parties. So I can attest to their appeal to children. Hide the polenta until you are ready to serve.
I don’t know about you but I am always looking for a way to vary the starches I serve. I get tired of potatoes/rice/pasta with the occasional couscous. This polenta is a great addition to any meal. I served these topped with smothered pork chops, but, as I said, they are also great plain. And, you can be sure, that is just how younger daughter ate hers.