Master Polenta Recipe
This is a very basic recipe for cooking stone-ground polenta - it takes time and attention, but the results are astounding.
You can easily substitute chicken or vegetable stock for part or all of the water. We don't recommend using milk in the liquid.
Serves 4 - 6.
- 3 cups polenta
- 8 1/2 cups water (plus a little extra liquid, warmed and at the ready)
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- herbs like rosemary, thyme and sage (optional)
- garlic (optional)
- 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano (optional)
- 4 tablespoons butter or extra virgin olive oil (optional)
In a dutch oven or high-sided pan, bring the liquid to a boil. At this point, you could toss in smashed garlic and herbs to flavor the liquid. Season the liquid with salt and pepper (less salt if you're using stock that isn't low sodium).
Once boiling, slowly stream in the polenta while whisking. The corn will absorb the liquid very quickly and you'll need to keep stirring. Once the "mush" comes to a bubble, lower the heat to very low and continue stirring. After a few minutes, switch to a wooden spoon.
At this point, you have some options - you can cover it and walk away, returning every 5 minutes or so to stir. But know that you'll have a serious crust on the bottom of your pot. Not a bad thing...the dog will love it.
Otherwise, get ready to stand and stir often for the duration of the cooking time. The polenta will look done after about 5 minutes...but it isn't. Be patient. The polenta will start to look dry...this is fine. But if it starts to scorch, add a little of the reserved liquid and keep stirring.
This really is a matter of time - set a timer. Since it's going to look done before it really is, you'll have to trust the timer.
After 40 minutes, you should be done. Taste it to be sure it's where you want it and remove from the heat.
We like to finish it with extra virgin olive oil - butter is nice, but the corn is so rich and creamy on its own that olive oil gives it more flavor. Add the grated cheese and serve immediately.
You can also pour it into a plastic wrapped line sheet pan. Smooth and let set in the fridge for a few hours. You can then cut and grill or saute to crisp the edges.