Polenta comes from overseas, but that doesn't mean that it's exotic. In Italy, from which polenta hails, this dish is anything but glamourous. It's common, comforting and inexpensive, AND it’s a go to side dish for entertaining!
Not just any polenta…no no no….baked Polenta!
A polenta you don’t have to stand over the stove and stir for an hour to get to the creamy, comforting perfection?? It can be done….I promise!
I love Polenta because it’s:
a) It’s delicious
b) It’s versatile
c) It’s different then the same ‘ol potatoes or rice
d) It’s easy to prepare and perfect for Effortless Entertaining
So what is polenta? It is a porridge made from cornmeal…. it’s often referred to as “Italian Grits.” Like grits, polenta is a hearty comfort food that pairs perfectly with so many dishes. Polenta originated in Northern Italy and was essential to many pheasant and working-class families. This dish was simple, satisfying and inexpensive. Traditionally, polenta was poured in the middle of a large wooden board where it would cool and harden and then be cut into portions with string! (Oh how I’d love to find one of these old wooden polenta boards that had so many stories and family gatherings to its name…sigh….)
Ok, back to the baked part…I learned this trick from one of my favorite chefs-Sara Moulton. Well, actually I learned SO much from Sara. She was one of the chefs that always inspired me to do what I’m doing today…even though I got a late start. Thanks Miss Sara!
Sara Moulten’s bio is amazing…”A protégée of Julia Child, Sara was the co-founder of the New York Women’s Culinary Alliance, executive chef of Gourmet magazine, Food Editor of ABC-TV’s ”Good Morning America,” and the host of several well-loved shows on the Food Network during that channel’s first decade” (Meet Sara…)
Sara taught me that Polenta could be baked instead of cooked on the stove. Cooking polenta on the stove requires a LOT of hands-on time — and not a little care. It is hot and sticky and bubbles up and out in a molten (ha.. pun intended) type of way. Here, Sara cooks the polenta in the oven, which drastically decreases the hands-on time. This recipe can be served as a hot creamy side dish or cool the polenta and cut into squares and fry. Once fried, top the polenta with a poached egg for breakfast or ragu for dinner…it’s just so DELICIOUS!
My recipe is a riff off hers…but I use chicken broth, and a LOT of Parmesan (Cervasi of course)! I seriously serve this all the time because it works with so many types of meals. But, all in all…both recipes are perfection in my book!
(Here is Sarah’s recipe)