Sunday, February 17, 2008

February 17, Again: Creamy Polenta

Polenta is a fabulous background for...well, really everything. I am crazy about soft-cooked polenta with spinach and slivered garlic sauteed in olive oil, sprinkled with a little parmesan cheese and a handful of toasted pecans. I like it for breakfast with a dab of butter and a fried egg, like oatmeal but better. I like it leftover, chilled in a slab, cut into squares, and grilled.

It's more work than pasta, potatoes, or rice, but it's worth it. Polenta, in many cases, benefits from a rest overnight, making it a perfect make-ahead dish. This recipe popped up in my inbox earlier this week, just as I was thinking about polenta underneath beef stew with mushrooms. I didn't get around to it before we left to go on vacation, but I will this week. This is enough for a crowd, 8-10.

Creamy Polenta

7 1/2 cups water
2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups polenta (9 ounces)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 medium garlic clove, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1 teaspoon)
Ground black pepper
2 ounces parmesan cheese, finely grated (about 1 cup)

1. Bring the water and milk to a boil in a partially covered, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and very slowly pour the polenta into the boiling liquid while stirring constantly in a circular motion with a wooden spoon.

2. Reduce to a simmer over low heat and cook, stirring often, until the polenta no longer has a raw cornmeal taste, all of the liquid has been absorbed, and the mixture has a uniformly smooth but very loose consistency, 20 to 25 minutes.

3. Off the heat, stir in the butter and garlic and season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour the polenta into a 13 by 9-inch baking dish. Sprinkle the Parmesan evenly over the top.

4. To Store: Wrap the dish tightly with plastic wrap, poke several vent holes in the plastic, and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

5. To Serve: Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 450 degrees. Remove the plastic wrap and lightly pat the cheese with paper towels to absorb any condensation that has accumulated. Bake uncovered until the polenta is bubbling and the cheese is nicely browned, 30 to 40 minutes.

1 comment:

bacio52 said...

will this recipe for creamy polenta stay creamy if prepared ahead. I have a party I'm planning for 30-40 people. And last minute won't work. Love your website. Look forward to visiting again.