Cooking main dishes are pretty easy but sometimes finding good starches that are interestingly prepared are another matter. I know different types of rice; from Basmati, Jasmine, Wild all the way to Arborio and how to cook them all up (did I mention I’m South Asian and we have this thing for rice?). I can also whip up a variety of potato inspired dishes. But Corn based dishes like Polenta or Grits have kind of not worked out for me in the past. Mostly because I didn’t want to stand around stirring for an hour. Who wants to dedicate that kind of time to a carbohydrate? But this Polenta dish is great! You know why? THE OVEN. You don’t have to stand around forever stirring the Polenta, the oven works just as great. I think a crock pot would work as well but I’ve not messed around with that yet. What I enjoy about Polenta is you can serve it hot and creamy or you can refrigerate the leftovers and then grill or saute them later in fun little shapes. What’s not to like about that? I added thyme to mine along with onions and garlic. Some people are purists and want to have plain Polenta. I am not good with plain anything. I have to add herbs, or spices or something! The thyme is mild enough that it enhances the flavor without interfering with any other main dish it is served with. I had some great pork chops with it last night.
Here’s the recipe:
Savory Herbed Polenta ~Creamy, Grilled or Sauteed
Olive oil (for grilling and for sauteing)
1/2 red onion chopped finely
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh Thyme, minced
2 cups chicken stock or broth would also work
2 cups milk ( I like a fuller fat version like whole or at least 2%)
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup coarse ground cornmeal (Polenta)
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2-3 ounces grated Parmesan cheese
In an oven safe saucepan heat a little olive oil (a couple of tablespoons will do) and saute the onions with the thyme. When onions are translucent add the garlic and saute until all the flavors are released. I like to add 1 tsp of Kosher salt to this mixture and save the 1/2 tsp to add later. Add the chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Add the milk to this mixture and bring everything to a boil. Slowly add the cornmeal in a thin stream as you whisk. This is very important so the cornmeal doesn’t begin to clump up. Once all the cornmeal is incorporated, cover the sauce pan and place it into a pre-heated 350 degree oven. The Polenta needs to cook for about 30-40 minutes total. Every 10 minutes take out the pan and stir the cornmeal mixture so it stays creamy and lump free.
Once the Polenta is creamy (35-40 minutes later) take out of the oven and add the remaining salt (this is a good time to taste and decide if you want to add the additional salt or not) freshly ground pepper and butter. Stir until all the butter is melted and incorporated into the mixture. Add Parmesan cheese and stir that in until it’s melted. Serve immediately as a creamy Polenta with any chicken, pork or beef dish. Goes great with roasted chicken. OR…you can pour the Polenta into a parchment lined 9 x 13 inch pan and place in the refrigerator to cool completely. Once the Polenta is nice and set you can cut it into any shapes (little circles, squares, triangles) brush with olive oil and saute in a non-stick skillet or grill on a grill. It’s really delightful. A great way to re-use leftovers!