I take that back. I once tried a recipe that used the store bought Polenta. This pre-cooked version is usually found in the pasta aisle and has the shape of a tube of sausage. You cut slices, lay them flat - sometimes grilling first - and top with other ingredients. I only have one word for this product - uninteresting. That said, there are TONS of recipes on the internet using it. Perhaps the tube I purchased was on the shelf too long or a sub par brand, but I will make my own from scratch in the future just to be safe. After this experience I set aside Polenta for awhile in frustration, but few weeks ago a recipe popped up that looked intriguing. While it received mixed results, it was a hit in my book. Of the 5 people who tried it, 3 of us enjoyed it, 1 wanted more flavour and 1 didn't like it all. Obviously it is something you enjoy or you don't which is the norm with a lot of unusual foods.
|I honestly prefer making it fresh - better taste.|
Let's start with the basics - what is polenta? They have a great overview on the Gourmet Foods page at About.com. I like to describe it as Cream of Wheat only made from cornmeal. It really is just the grain stirred into boiling water and simmered until it is a soft, thick mush. This is very bland, so most recipes will add herbs, cheese, butter, etc. to round out the flavour. It is normally a base to top with flavourful sauces or stews or used as a side dish. It can also replace the biscuits on top of pot pies. Another interesting use is to spread the soft Polenta out after cooking and let cool. This is then cut into shapes which are grilled or used as a base and topped with other ingredients. One recipe link below uses this technique to top a casserole.
Polenta Torte is intriguing as the layers are soft Polenta instead of firm. The first bite I was unsure if I liked the texture, but by the 3rd I was in love with the way it warmed me on a cold night. The recipe has been tweaked of course. They used 20 oz frozen spinach thawed and squeezed dry, but I preferred to work with fresh. I found a 5 oz package of baby mixed greens and then used baby spinach for the other 15 oz. This is a big pile that cooks quickly down to a small quantity. I also added diced mushrooms - one member isn't a big fan so prefers the smaller pieces.
|With lentils and cotechino: perhaps the most popular polenta meal |
for celebrations in Italy
I have offered links to 6 other recipes, chosen because they are great examples of other ways to work with Polenta. Be brave and enjoy!
|Sea Scallop and Polenta - Recipe at Eating in Bed|
5. Last but not least is a recipe that looked interesting from Meg.Goes.Nom.Nom called Polenta Rounds with Sausage Ragout. It uses the dreaded store bought tube. I personally will be making my own Polenta rounds from scratch if I try this recipe, but I do love the idea.