Polenta, easy to make, and it’s a great breakfast alternative to hash browns, pancakes or waffles. Making a pot of polenta is quite easy and it only takes about 20 to 30 minutes. You can use it when first made or you can pack it into a mold, refrigerate it and use it later.
First, what to buy. You can buy polenta, already made in rolls, usually in the grocers refrigeration case. In this form, for a basic, simple food it is quite pricy and it may contain preservatives and fillers. Better off to make your own. It ain’t rocket science. You will find dry polenta in the baking section along with the flour and sugar. I never buy the box or bag that is labeled polenta. It’s usually way more expensive. Just get cornmeal, not corn flour, and get coarse ground if possible. Polenta is basically just cornmeal that’s ground a bit more coarsely.
4 cups of water *
Salt - optional
1 to 1 ½ cups of ground polenta or cornmeal
Bring the water to a rapid simmer and add salt to taste, but if you’re avoiding sodium, it’s not necessary. Begin gradually sprinkling the polenta or cornmeal over the surface of the water, stirring all the while to prevent clumping. Sprinkle in a scant handful at a time, using your fingers and stir well after each addition. Continue adding the polenta, stirring all the while until the resulting mixture is thick and beginning to come away from the sides of the pan when you stir. At this point, continue stirring for another minute or two, then turn off the heat, cover with a tight fitting lid and leave sit for about five minutes.
Now, you can use it just as it is, or you can go on to bigger and better things.
1. Pour it out onto a flat surface that has been lightly oiled. Spread it evenly into a layer that is a bit more than half an inch thick. Leave it until it is cold and has set up. Then, using a biscuit cutter, you can cut it into rounds or use a knife and cut it into squares or diamonds. It’s a good idea to wipe the blade of the knife with a bit of oil.
After cutting the polenta up I like to fry it in a bit of olive oil until it’s a bit crispy on both sides and use it like you would pasta; as a base for sauces. I have also used it to make small mini pizzas, topping each piece with a bit of sauce and a sprinkling of cheese and herbs or whatever else you like and then popping them under the broiler for a few minutes.
2. Try cutting it into small cubes and serving them with a toothpicks and a dipping sauce.
3. If you want to use it later, pack it into tubular molds, like soup cans and refrigerating it until needed. To use, cut the end out of the can and shove the cylinder of polenta out, slice it into rounds and use it as you like.
|4. Polenta is excellent as a starting point for many breakfast ideas. Cut into rounds and then lightly fried in olive oil, it is great simply topped with an egg, or topped with an egg, a bit of a favorite red Italian type sauce spooned over it, add a sprinkling of cheese and pop under the broiler just until the cheese melts. Give it a lightly Latino flare by using salsa or chili sauce instead of the Italian sauce. After all, corn is a new world product.
A scoop of polenta, just as it comes from the pot makes a good accompaniment to other breakfast foods, just as it is. When I was a kid, I often had a bowl of cooked cornmeal topped with a bit of butter and brown sugar for breakfast. My mom called it “Cowboy Mush.” She said that the cowboys on her grandfather’s cattle ranch often ate it that way.
5. Try serving a bowl of polenta with milk and fresh fruit, or how about poached apple slices and cinnamon. Now there’s a breakfast to put a smile on your face.
* You can cook your polenta in Stock, broth or bouillon if you wish. Use homemade or commercial.