As a rule, Chef Bob, like many Italian cooks, stirs this basic water with polenta, a corn meal, on top of the stove, until the cornmeal cooks, releasing its starch so that it thickens into a “porridge” consistency. He then adds in any amount of flavors such as cheese, butter, olive oil, chives, etc. As an alternative we are getting good results by cooking polenta in the oven. The simple polenta recipe is by baked in a 350˚F oven until the liquid and the cornmeal has “gelled” together about 40 to 60 minutes. Then add-in desired flavors.
- 5 cups (40 ounces) water, stock (such as chicken, spice flavored water, half water half milk
- 1 cup (6 ounces) cornmeal, medium to coarse grind
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Add-ins: Optional: 1/2 teaspoon pepper; few grinds coriander seed; 1 tablespoon butter or EVOO; 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
In Dutch oven, bring salted water or stock if using to simmer. Add the cornmeal slowly while stirring. Remove from heat, cover and place into 350ºF. oven until polenta has absorbed enough water to become porridge-like, about 40-30 minutes. Remove from oven and if desired, add-in any of the suggested flavors. Serve no more than 5 minutes after pulling out of the oven; the longer it sits the tight the consistency.
Tip: Cool down leftovers by spreading into shallow depth on a sided cookie sheet. Shape with cookie cutters or free form shapes. Brown in sauté pan with a little butter or EVOO, and enjoy a second time.