For someone who grew up thinking mashed potatoes were the epitome of comfort food, polenta has been a real revelation–the range of textures and the depth of flavor make it one of my favorite starches to put under ragus or to serve on the side with grilled meats.
4 cups chicken stock (no or low-salt) or water
1 cup water (to be added to stock or water for a total of 5 cups)
1 cup polenta (not instant)
salt to taste (use 2t if only liquid is water, less if main liquid is chicken stock that has salt)
¼ cup grated parmegian reggiano
1 T. unsalted butter
- Bring the 5 cups of chicken stock/ water to a boil in a large pot or pan.
- Slowly add the polenta, stirring all the while with a whisk or wooden spoon to prevent lumps.
- Reduce heat to low and continue stirring until polenta thickens (about 5 minutes).
- With heat on lowest setting, continue cooking, stirring every few minutes so the polenta doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan, for 20-30 minutes or until all the grains are cooked and soft. If it becomes too stiff and dry, add a little more water.
- Add the parmegian reggiano and, once it is fully incorporated, taste for and correct salt.
- Stir in the butter.
Polenta can be served as is (soft) with a topping of tomato sauce, shredded meat, sautéed vegetables, or even just more parmegian cheese. It can also be spooned onto a foil-covered or greased flat pan (like a cookie sheet) and cooled. It can then be cut into pieces and sautéed until browned in either olive oil or butter or (carefully) grilled.