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3.06.2010

A reasonable question

I have been, for quite some time, intimidated by polenta. I don’t like saying that out loud, because it makes me sound like a total cream puff, but in the spirit of keeping it real, I’m saying it. I’m willing to own it. I will also say, however, that as of a few days ago, I am not intimidated by polenta anymore. And I have Judy Rodgers to thank for that.


I don’t know where it got its start, this idea that polenta is so tricky to make, but it’s the common line. It’s what I was always told. They say you have to sprinkle the cornmeal into boiling water in a particular way, like a rain shower, and that you have to stir constantly. Rumor has it, if you put down your spoon and step away, or if you try to do anything that is not constant stirring, your polenta will go lumpy, irretrievably lumpy, to spite you. I remember my mother making polenta once, sometime in the late 80s. She had eaten it in a restaurant, served soft with sauteed mushrooms on top, and she decided to try it at home. She studied up in all the right places, and then she did as she was told: she stood at the stove and stirred, and stirred, and stirred, for over an hour. She was intense. She was devoted. And it was beautiful: the pure flavor of corn, only softer and richer, more deeply satisfying. But I don’t remember her ever making it again.

I tried making polenta once, in college. I didn’t know that the possibility of lumps in one’s corn gruel could cause a person real anxiety, but it did for me. It’s not that making polenta is actually difficult; it’s just that, because of all the dos and don’ts that come with it, I was sure that I was doing something wrong. I felt like my dinner and I were teetering on the edge of some precipice, a precipice over an abyss of lumps, and I didn’t know if we were ultimately going to fall, or how I could tell if we were falling, or how long I was going to have to stand there, teetering, by which I mean stirring, before we were rescued. (I’m prone to nightmares.)

So I started buying polenta in tubes, a simplified situation that requires only slicing. But it was never very good, and certainly not as good as freshly cooked soft polenta. After a while, I stopped eating much polenta at all, except in restaurants. But you don’t find it much on menus anymore - or not as often as you did in the 80s, when it had its big break - so, basically, what I’m trying to say is that I have been living a life devoid of polenta for quite some time. Whether or not that counts as a life is a reasonable question.



Anyway, I’d been thinking about that a lot lately, and then I saw, in the New York Times, that Mark Bittman was writing about polenta. I decided that the time had come. I gathered up a few recipes, including Bittman’s, and I compared them: some had you fuss until Forever, some promised that it was quick and easy, and some even used an oven method that requires no human intervention at all. What I decided on was something in between, the polenta from The Zuni Café Cookbook, by Judy Rodgers.

If I haven’t made this clear, I’m going to say it now: I totally love this book. It might actually be my favorite cookbook, and those are big words to throw around. I had been ignoring its polenta recipe for reasons cited above, but I should have had more faith, because it is brilliant. BRILLIANT.

Zuni has had polenta on its menu for a long time, and it’s perfect: served soft, with Parmesan, mascarpone, or nothing. I always wondered how they made it in a restaurant setting, where each cook is working on a thousand things at once, and how they served it so quickly, without any kind of wait or delay or allowance for stirring time. The answer, it turns out, is two-fold.

First, Judy Rodgers doesn’t(!) adhere(!) to the constant stirring rule. I love her. You need to stir often enough, she says, to keep the polenta from sticking or scorching, but you don’t need to hover over it. Using a heavy-bottomed saucepan is important, and you want to keep the heat gentle, so that the polenta bubbles only occasionally, slowly, like lava. If you stir every five minutes or so, you should be fine. Second, and this is the brilliant part, brilliant brilliant brilliant: after the polenta has cooked, you hold it in a double boiler, or in some sort of contraption over simmering water, for anywhere between thirty minutes and a few hours. Judy Rodgers says that this holding period is key, that it allows the cornmeal to swell and soften even more, making it especially creamy. And it does. Not only does it make for a better, more tender, lighter polenta, but it’s also so sensible. So humane. So handy! It means that, if you want to, you can make your polenta, your brilliant polenta, a couple of hours ahead and keep it hot until you want it.

If I were you, I would make it immediately, for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Whichever comes first.


Zuni Café Polenta
Adapted from The Zuni Café Cookbook, by Judy Rodgers

I use Bob’s Red Mill brand corn grits polenta, which is not fancy, but it works fine.

5 cups water
1 cup coarsely ground polenta
About 2 tsp. kosher salt, or to taste
Unsalted butter, to taste
Parmigiano-Reggiano, for serving (optional)

Bring the water to a simmer in a 2-quart saucepan. Whisk or stir in the polenta, then stir until the water returns to a simmer. [I did this step, and the steps that follow, with a whisk.] Reduce the heat until the polenta only bubbles and sputters occasionally, and cook, uncovered, for about 1 hour, stirring as needed, until thick but still fluid. If the polenta becomes stiff, add a trickle of water. Taste. Add salt and a generous dose of butter. [I used 2 teaspoons of kosher salt and about 2 tablespoons of butter.]

Transfer the polenta to a double boiler set over simmering water. Wrap the lid tightly in plastic wrap (*see note) and cover the polenta. Allow the polenta to rest that way for at least 30 minutes – or up to a few hours, depending on your schedule. If you don’t have a double boiler, you can make a close approximation by setting the saucepan containing the polenta on a small, ovenproof ramekin centered inside a wider, deeper pot, and surrounding it with barely simmering water. Cover the pan as directed above.

Serve hot. If you want, grate some Parmigiano-Reggiano on top, though I like mine plain.

Note: The plastic wrap doesn’t seem like great idea to me, but I’m not sure. Heating plastic can cause it to release chemicals, but since this plastic wrap isn’t actually touching the food, is it safe? I followed the recipe as directed, but I wanted to raise the question. If you’re worried, maybe skip the plastic wrap? Or instead, try placing a sheet of parchment over the saucepan, under the lid?

Another note: This polenta would also be delicious with a spoonful of tomato sauce or meat sauce, or with some sliced sausage. You could also serve it with some sort of braised beef or pork. I had polenta topped with duck ragu and a fried egg at Flour + Water in San Francisco, and it was out. of. control.

The last note: If you have leftover polenta, spread it about 1 inch deep in a lightly oiled baking dish. Allow it to cool, and then refrigerate until you’re ready to roast, grill, or fry it.

Yield: 4 to 8 servings

197 Comments:

Blogger Ciao Chow Linda said...

I am a big polenta lover, and even on the board of an Italian cultural institution that has an annual polenta festa. I make it all the time - the old fashioned way by cooking it 40 minutes or so. But I just discovered a new way too that has something in common with the Zuni Cafe method. It's from Michele Scicolone's "Italian Slow Cooker" and you put the cornmeal and water in the slow cooker, put the lid on and walk away for a couple of hours. You can keep it on low or warm for an hour or so after it's cooked and it's brilliantly creamy and smooth. This is great for when you're having a crowd, which is what I'm having tomorrow night after a presentation at that Italian cultural organization I mentioned. I'll be setting the button on the slow cooker before I leave and we'll all come home to beautiful soft polenta (Scicolone uses same proportions of water/cornmeal) and osso buco that's just been made and will only need a warming up. So glad you're back to blogging by the way.

3:59 PM, March 06, 2010  
Anonymous beyond said...

polenta intimidated me until i understood that it does NOT need constant stirring. hallelujah! i now think that polenta gets nervous and lumpy when the cook hovers ; ) i don't make it often enough, thanks for the reminder...

4:01 PM, March 06, 2010  
Blogger quinn said...

I just realized that the cornmeal dish I used to make in my old Crockpot (right up until its dying day) was, in fact, polenta.

I used to make it overnight, and have the first bowl for breakast. It was delicious, and the house was filled with a wonderful aroma from morning til evening.

Does anyone know of a slow cooker that is made in Not China? My search has been fruitless...

4:10 PM, March 06, 2010  
Blogger Cheriepicked said...

I love polenta...ate it for breakfast every day for around 6 months (it was around that time when I burned out). I was equally intimidated by it in the beginning but kept at it and Im so glad I did- the stuff is delicious & damn versatile to boot.

Cheers,
Cherie
http://www.cheriepicked.com

4:30 PM, March 06, 2010  
Anonymous aimee said...

i don't know but this seems rather complicated for a simple dish. I use alton brown's method of bringing the liquid to a boil on the cooktop adding the liquid, and then putting the whole pot in the oven (in an ovenproof pot of course). easy as pie and it's never failed me. maybe people have an aversion to the food network, but I think alton brown is pretty cool.

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/savory-polenta-recipe/index.html

4:45 PM, March 06, 2010  
Anonymous Claire said...

I love your blog! It is inspirational to say the least. I recently posted the recipe I use for polenta --it is completely a no-stir recipe. It just bakes in the oven and comes out perfect every time. I hope you check it out. http://www.cookwithclaire.org/search/label/Polenta

Claire

4:47 PM, March 06, 2010  
Anonymous jenna said...

it's good to see you here blogging again molly. your photos always compliment the writing so well. you inspire me to try polenta again. :)

4:51 PM, March 06, 2010  
Blogger Sue said...

So interesting. I’m so glad you’ve climbed this mountain. My own revelation with polenta came when I used Rozanne Gold’s recipe from Recipes - One Two Three ages ago. Despite EVERY other recipe at the time, she started with cornmeal in the pot and added liquid to THAT, rather than adding the cornmeal to the liquid. THAT’S the secret. I’ve never understood why anyone would do it any other way. You’re not fighting to keep the lumps down this way. I guess that's kind of Bittman's recipe.

Ina Garten loves that boiling water method for keeping mashed potatoes hot. It does work really well with polenta too.

Enjoy and just wait until you fry triangles of polenta and top it with sun-dried tomato tapenade. It’s not New Year’s Eve without it.

4:55 PM, March 06, 2010  
Anonymous kate o. said...

this sounds great. my husband and i have been trying to replicate a white cheddar polenta we had at a restaurant in chapel hill that was served with pork osso buco braised in nut brown ale and cider - unbelievable.

4:56 PM, March 06, 2010  
Anonymous Jen Marie said...

I recently had a dinner party for ten and made the craziest SPICED PORK STEW WITH POLENTA, ROOT VEGETABLES, AND GREMOLATA (posted on my own blog) from Sunday Suppers at Lucques. Thankfully, I went into the endeavor without realizing polenta was supposed to be a nightmare, and Suzanne Goin's instructions were similar to these. Luckily, it all worked out. Phew! What she didn't say, that I love about your post, is that it actually gets better after resting for a while! Just what every dinner party host/ess wants to hear!

Thank you...your posts always brighten my day. :)

5:02 PM, March 06, 2010  
OpenID arugulove said...

This sounds like a great technique. I make polenta a lot - it's probably my favorite starchy side. It's as comforting as mashed potatoes, but it can sit in the pantry forever and is a lot less work (even with all the stirring).

I'm excited to have an easier way to do it now since I make it so often!

And now that you have joined us polenta fantatics, I've got a couple recipes in my blog that use it if you want to play around with it even more - one with goat cheese (my favorite!) and one with braised pork (it's as good as you speculated it would be). :)

5:09 PM, March 06, 2010  
Blogger Liza said...

Polenta and Risotto get the same bad rap...and they are both doable, and they are both delicious. Love to read your posts. Hope all is going well with the restaurant.

5:18 PM, March 06, 2010  
Anonymous Cate said...

Zuni is high on my list of favorite cookbooks too. Brilliant! I don't know if I've ever had polenta, but for some reason I think I don't like the texture. I guess it's time to try it out and determine for sure whether or not I like it!

5:22 PM, March 06, 2010  
Blogger well-crafted said...

As others have shared above, I too really like the oven-baked method and have used this recipe for years. I find it useful to do this part of a menu in the oven since I am usually doing other things at the stove-top. (I have also been converted to doing my rice in the oven á la Francis Lam)

5:30 PM, March 06, 2010  
OpenID Maybe Next Week said...

Fantastic! I've just been getting into polenta lately, so I've been reading up on a lot of methods, but the double boiler idea is new to me and sounds genius! I don't think I'd go with the plastic though - I think your instincts are right-on. Surely a tightly-fitting lid would do the job?

xo Francesca

5:35 PM, March 06, 2010  
Blogger Buffra said...

Not exactly relevant to the polenta itself, but did you know that Bob gave his company to the employees?

http://www.bobsredmill.com/esop.html

I thought that was very cool and, while their products may not be fancy, that's the sort of company that I like to try to support.

:-)

5:48 PM, March 06, 2010  
Anonymous pam said...

my mom is Italian, and we were practically weaned on polenta. We serve it with roast and brown gravy. After it's cooked, we pour it onto a cutting board, cover with a towel and then slice with a serrated knife. The next day, cut the leftover polenta into chunks and fry them in butter. Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Truly, there's nothing better!

5:58 PM, March 06, 2010  
Blogger Molly said...

Hi, all! It's so nice to "talk" with you here in the comments. Hope you're having a good weekend.

Quinn, I wish I could help with your slow cooker quest, but I don't have any leads. Maybe someone else will?

Aimee, I think Alton Brown is fantastic. I haven't tried that particular method, but he's never led me astray! This method is a little more involved, but it doesn't feel complicated when you're in the middle of it - and the result really is remarkably light and creamy. I also love that it has a holding period built in, which means that it's easy to do for company.

Well-crafted, isn't Francis's in-the-oven rice great? Since I tried it, I haven't made rice any other way.

Francesca, the only nice thing about the plastic wrap is that it seems to really suction the lid onto the pan, so every little bit of heat and steam stays inside. But I do think a good lid would be a very close second.

Buffra, I didn't know that! Bob's Red Mill makes good products, and now I'm even happier to support them.

6:33 PM, March 06, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

just want to reinforce that other commenter that polenta is the greatest most versatile hot breakfast dish ever. I too suffered from a childhood marred by lumpy grits, which my sister and I ate mournfully with the same dutifulness that we approached a bowl of shredded (unsweetened! the AARP version) wheat. I am eternally grateful to a college roommate who made this new dish she called polenta for breakfast one day, heavily dolloped with maple syrup. It honestly took years for me to connect her polenta to the grey bulbous mess we had occasionally endured as children, and now we probably have it 3x a week during the winter. I do spend about 10-15 minutes whisking it off and on while doing other mindless tasks like emptying the dishwasher and making coffee first thing in the morning, and then leave it to steam covered (with the burner off) while I take a shower. The bainmarie relocation option seems a bit fiddly unless you really are going to wait a few hours or you have an electric stovetop where the heat is less controllable. when we get out of the shower we might slice up a banana and sprinkle on brown sugar and toasted pecans or chopped dried apricots, or poach an egg to lay on top with a drizzle of olive oil and parmesan shavings and flakes of salt or leftover sauce from dinner pasta, it is so cozy and versatile and looks special when you've done almost nothing. For those of you living with just one other person I can assure you that it halves admirably.

6:35 PM, March 06, 2010  
Blogger Debra said...

LOVE polenta & make it often, but didn't know that 1) you could keep it warm & soft nor 2) you could use a slow-cooker. So thanks for that! I happen to love the Bob's polenta you mention AND the fact that he gave his company to his employees. I got to meet him year's ago at my local store & it is still a favorite foodie moment. Oh, & back to polenta - I like to use 1/2 chicken broth. Such comfort food!

6:36 PM, March 06, 2010  
Blogger geronjanet said...

I love polenta. I think I will take your recipe with me over spring break and try it in my family's little cabin in New Mexico.

Last year on spring break, I made my family wait to leave for NM until I could get you to sign my book at Full Circle! After we left, I read the book the first half of the week and tried several of the recipes. The purple cabbage salad is my favorite...as well as my 6 year old son's! I feel like I might be going through withdrawls this year without your book. I enjoyed it so much...maybe I'll have to read it again!

Take Care -- Janet

7:06 PM, March 06, 2010  
Anonymous molly said...

Giant creamy dollops of polenta have been a key pillar for getting through a cold winter, around here. Always with parmesan, often with a heap of garlicky greens. Or roast tomatoes + soft cubes of mozarella di bufalo. Or with nothing save salt and a golden pool of melted butter. Sunshine in a bowl. Next time, I think I might hum "like lave, like lava" as I stir, now and then.

7:44 PM, March 06, 2010  
Anonymous Victoria Carr said...

Well, of course, I love Zuni too and am ashamed to admit I have not made this recipe yet.

But I'm not so sure about the plastic wrap. That makes me a little nervous, so I think I will do an alternative method on that step.

I am always so glad to hear what you have to say, and seeing a post from you in my Reader always makes me smile.

8:46 PM, March 06, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Zuni Cookbook is like cooking school. My dream is to cook every recipe in it. But I recently found a polenta recipe I like even better - from LA Times Russ Parsons - another version of the oven baked recipe (who knew?) It couldn't be easier and lighter. Here's the link: http://www.latimes.com/features/food/la-fo-calcookrec18a-2010feb18,0,6871055.story

Thanks for your blog!

9:16 PM, March 06, 2010  
Blogger louise said...

Molly, you have unwittingly triggered an intense taste memory for me, as I am now fighting off uncontrollable cravings for that soul-satisfying polenta I enjoyed at Zuni Cafe several years ago! Congrats on getting over your polenta fears, and thanks for sharing yet another lovely post with all of us.

9:26 PM, March 06, 2010  
Blogger Emily said...

okay. you've convinced me to give polenta another try. i've made it a few times and have just not liked it very much at all.

9:27 PM, March 06, 2010  
Anonymous Sasa said...

Yay, ditto to the above: an Orangette post in my Reader a happy me makes.

My boyfriend's Austrian mum often serves polenta as a side for goulash - the perfect foil.

9:54 PM, March 06, 2010  
Blogger Hannah said...

Molly! I just made polenta and it was so easy. I followed Mark Bittman's instructions-so I was thrilled to find it on your blog today. I'll try the Zuni method next time. Instead of the butter that Bittman adds I added white truffle oil. It went nicely with Italian sausage.

Btw, I'm going to try making the Winning Hearts and Minds Cake very soon.

9:54 PM, March 06, 2010  
Anonymous Julie said...

I always made polenta the same way I make cream of wheat; without particular diligence to standing at the stove and stirring. Love the double boiler suggestion! I most often make cheesy polenta to chill, then slice into fingers and sear in a hot pan or roast for crispy on the outside, soft on the inside polenta fries.

10:26 PM, March 06, 2010  
Blogger Crystal said...

We use Paula Wolfert's oven recipe. Super simple -- 2 cups of polenta to 8-10 cups of water in a buttered or oiled baking dish, stir to combine. Cook for 1 hour and 20 minutes, stir, cook another 10 minutes, and remove from the oven. Ta-da!

Glad everyone is enjoying their polenta!

10:29 PM, March 06, 2010  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

heh. i made a polenta recipe using polenta out of a tube, and when i told my mom, she said, "why did you do that? it's so easy to make!" i'm glad others were intimidated by it, though in fairness, i didn't even consider making it from scratch. and i looooooove grain cereals, aka gruels. yum. maybe i should buy some tomorrow and make it for dinner...

cuz i made your green lentil soup twice in the last week and it was AWESOME. SO GOOD. it somehow tastes richer than it actually is (butter-wise) and, oh did i mention, i LOVE IT. but at some point, i have to cook something else or it will lose its lustre.

10:44 PM, March 06, 2010  
Blogger Kimberley said...

I used to be intimidated by polenta too, and risotto, but discovered through laziness exactly what Judy Rodgers clued you into.

Using chicken stock instead of water is also great.

11:08 PM, March 06, 2010  
Blogger Linda said...

I discovered that you can make your polenta on top of the stove and then stick it in a warm oven and it will stay soft-that way you don't have to worry about plastic wrap or anything. It might get a little crust on top but I like it,especially if there is some parmasean cheese in it.

11:33 PM, March 06, 2010  
Anonymous Sara said...

The polenta recipe sounds delicious!

However, I too am concerned by the use of plastic wrap, especially since it is used to seal in the moisture. Condensation forming on plastic will drip back into the pan, so I don't think it needs to touch the food to be a problem.

11:56 PM, March 06, 2010  
Anonymous tobias kocht! said...

a classic part of my diet. I love it.

1:00 AM, March 07, 2010  
OpenID Fortuna said...

Hurray, a new post from Molly!

Polenta is a staple in Romanian cuisine. Cooking method is the same, following a ratio between 1:3 to 1:5, depending on the cornmeal. Wait till water boils (don't forget the salt), pour about half a cup of cornmeal, stirring well with a whisk, then gradually pour the rest of the cornmeal until the mixture is slightly thinner than the consistency you want to reach. Leave it on low heat for about 10 minutes, then stir with a wooden spoon until creamy. Give it another 5-10 minutes, it's ready when polenta clears the walls of the pot. Overturn it on a platter sprinkled with a little water, this way it won't stick to the dish. For easier cleaning, fill the pot with water right away.

We eat it:
- instead of bread, accompanying more savory and fatty foods,like cabbage rolls, hearty stews, meat or fish borsh (Romanian "borsh" is different from Russian "borsht", but that is another story)
- as a moderately light dinner, with butter/ sour cream/cottage cheese/feta/ricotta
- polenta chunks in a bowl of hot or cold milk
- oven-baked polenta strata with cheese and eggs
- a shepards' dish called "bulz", a ball of polenta with fermented sheep's cheese inside, grilled on live coals (cheese is fermented in a cylinder made of fir-tree bark).

My personal favorite is polenta with sour cream and cottage cheese.

2:04 AM, March 07, 2010  
Blogger Kate at Serendipity said...

I lovelovelove polenta. Warm and liquid or cooled and grilled. I learned to make it in Italy, where they told me that the instructions to stir polenta (and risotto) constantly were invented to keep your mother in law out of your hair while you cooked the rest of the dinner. LOL! Ever since then I've just stirred it every few minutes...

I love to add a big handful of parmesan to it. I love the flavor that adds to it.

Thank you for this recipe and the reminder of this wonderful dish.

2:40 AM, March 07, 2010  
Blogger hukari said...

Well...I live in Italy, and as far as polenta goes, there are two schools of thought: those who like creamy, and those who like firm polenta. Our family belongs to the firm polenta lovers. The most important thing for both is making sure that the meal is stirred in with a whisk and that no lumps remain in this first phase. Another prerequisite is a copper pan with high sides. After stirring in the meal, I stir about every ten minutes or so, whenever I think about it, that is. My polenta cooks for about an hour. A sure sign of good polenta is the thick crust which forms on the walls of the pan. When the polenta is overturned onto a wooden board, the crust is allowed to cook over the flame for a bit and then can be scraped from the pan and eaten like fat-free tortilla chips. A good addition to the polenta shortly before it is finished is a small glass of white wine or a chunk of unsalted butter. Anything that is left over gets sliced, fried and eaten with speck and fried eggs!

3:30 AM, March 07, 2010  
Blogger Marianne said...

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http://scottishfarmersmarkets.blogspot.com/

Supporting farmers and producers of fine foods! xxxxmuch love.

4:02 AM, March 07, 2010  
Anonymous DC Sarah (Braise & Butter) said...

glad to see a polenta recipe vetted by someone i trust! the last couple i tried only became decent with, frankly, an obscene amount of butter & cheese. not that i am against that per se, but i felt like there had to be a way that didn't make you feel faint and gluttonous after eating a tiny bowlful! looking forward to trying this soon, and as always, so happy to read your writing. cheers!

4:38 AM, March 07, 2010  
Anonymous Jessica @ How Sweet said...

I made polenta for the first time and topped it with fontina and gorgonzola, and a bit of tomato sauce. Very good!!

4:48 AM, March 07, 2010  
Blogger Eunice said...

I love polenta and have made it several times, though the method you describe is intriguing. I'll have to try it with our locally sourced corn grits.

Also, have you tried tomato polenta? It's basically tomato sauce (i use homemade, but any will do) stirred into polenta, served with anything- fish, stir-fried greens, fried egg, etc.

5:06 AM, March 07, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a thought from a southern soul - Grits - a great substitute for polenta. But they gotta be stone ground, and best from Anson Mills. Which, by the way , also offers a visually beautiful Rustic Coarse Polenta Integrale from heirloom corn varieties.

5:24 AM, March 07, 2010  
Anonymous Aggie said...

Your post caught my eye...not just for the polenta but for the coincidence that I just ate Zuni's polenta a week ago at Zuni. I live in FL and was visiting SF for the first time...my old college friend and his wife cook at Zuni and I paid them a visit. I wanted to be adventurous and order something fun, but since I was about to get on a flight the sound of polenta in my belly sounded perfect. It was perfect. I can't wait to make it at home...thanks for sharing. :)

5:38 AM, March 07, 2010  
Blogger Linda said...

I've been making the Union Square Cafe Polenta recipe for so many years, my family will not eat any that is made with water. Born and raised in an Italian family, this far exceeds anything I had growing up. I use Bob's Red Mill exclusively for my polenta. We love it with grilled shrimp, or scallops in a compote of sun dried tomatoes and roasted garlic!

Union Square Cafe's
Creamy Polenta with Mascarpone
Serves 4 to 6

4 cups milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup polenta (yellow cornmeal)
2 tablespoons mascarpone cheese
Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste

For an appetizer, garnish with:
8 ounces gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
4 ounces shelled walnuts, lightly toasted
chopped parsley

5:51 AM, March 07, 2010  
Blogger Susannah said...

Hi Molly, I am a polenta freak and will certainly try my hand at this recipe. Also, I wanted to tell you that I have owned your book since it came out and have made about half of the recipes. Each one has been excellent. The Cider Glazed Salmon actually did make us go into the kitchen and finish the sauce from the pan with spoons. Shameless! I've been a reader here in Nashville for about three years now and just wanted to say thank you--for the foolproof, crowd-pleasing recipes, and for the creative inspiration. All the best.

5:59 AM, March 07, 2010  
Blogger Anna said...

Polenta is so delicious and it can be used in so many ways (soft, grilled, even made into tasty little fries!). I'm so glad you took the plunge. And thanks for sharing a new polenta technique.

6:39 AM, March 07, 2010  
Blogger Katie Peek said...

The Zuni Cafe polenta is perfect. I have never regretted a decision to make it for dinner.

7:05 AM, March 07, 2010  
Anonymous blaire said...

Having grown up in the south with yummy, Grandma made grits (NOT instant or Quick), I've always loved to make and eat polenta. New Recipes from Moosewood has a great recipe called Caserola Milanese. They use the labor intensive method for the polenta part but the sauce is a wonderful vegetabley mixture of eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes. As with all things Moosewood, sausage would be a good addition... I'm so happy to hear the slow cooker suggestion, my three sons love polenta and eggs for breakfast, and whatever is left over sliced for an after school snack! Remember to buy organic corn products or you will be buying GM corn. Thanks for the great recipe!

7:12 AM, March 07, 2010  
Blogger Ann said...

exciting! i also really appreciate everyone's serving suggestions...

7:42 AM, March 07, 2010  
Blogger Cookin' Canuck said...

I have played around with polenta several times and readily admit that I was in the stir frequently, but not constantly, group. I always felt as though I were committing a terrible sin. Thanks to Judy Rogers (and you) for giving me permission to be less than vigilant. I will be trying double-boiler trick next time.

7:58 AM, March 07, 2010  
Blogger Julie Alvarez said...

I completely love polenta. Hands down one of my favorites. And my daughter's too. AND my husband, who, until he tried mine, never liked it. Yay..!
But here (in Argentina) we always use a packed polenta that is meant to be cooked in one minute. Yes, ONE minute! And it's completely true, it does cook in a minute.
But. There's a but. For me, there were ALWAYS lumps. Until I tried this:
I put all the ingredients on the pan, TOGETHER.
I use:
* Polenta
* Milk
* Butter
* Grated cheese to taste
* A pinch of salt
* Sometimes I add a pinch of dry broth, but it's not necessary.
I put it all cold in the pan and stir. Set on the fire, and stir (yes, all the time, but it's three minutes! Two until it boils and one more to cook).
I stir even when it's cooling down, also adding a spoon of heavy cream to the avid palates in my home.

9:19 AM, March 07, 2010  
Blogger johnimer said...

I too make polenta in the oven and it is soft and delicious. But for those of you in Seattle, I have a tip:
Farestart has an A-MAZING polenta dish on their lunch menu -- polenta, roasted veggies, marinara, and a sunny side up egg. Go eat that!

9:19 AM, March 07, 2010  
Blogger Sally Pasley Vargas said...

Molly,
I'm a huge fan of polenta and of Judy Rogers, too. The woman can cook! Thankfully the publishers of her book let her take all the time in the world to explain things. If you haven't yet tried her citrus risotto, well, there's a dish you would be hard pressed to come up with on your own. Amazing.

On to the polenta. I am inspired to write something myself on the subject in the near future. I could eat it day and night. The punch line here is I discovered how to do a no-stir polenta in the oven. Just cold water, salt and the lovely grain in a souffle dish or something comparable. Maybe a stir once or twice. It takes about 50 minutes, after which you can stir in all the good stuff, or nothing. If it's too thick, add a little hot water, too thin, cook it a little longer. And yes, the grain swells and develops more flavor as it sits, so you can turn the oven off and keep it warm, covered with foil.

Farewell, polenta anxiety!

9:26 AM, March 07, 2010  
Anonymous cdelphine said...

well, I glad I didn't know all of this about polenta before. I know that traditional polenta is cooked for a long time but when I just need a starch to go with my dinner I cook it for about 15 minutes. I believe that we started cooking it this way because of the instructions on the side of the Bob's Red Mill package.

10:04 AM, March 07, 2010  
Anonymous Sara said...

The polenta recipe sounds delicious!

However, I too am concerned by the use of plastic wrap, especially since it is used to seal in the moisture. Condensation forming on plastic will drip back into the pan, so I don't think it needs to touch the food to be a problem.

10:14 AM, March 07, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is a Romanian version of polenta "porridge" that is very similar, called mamalega. It doesn't have parmesan in it---instead you stir in some salted butter and then top it with a big dollop of sour cream. The combination of smooth/textured, salty/a little sweet, hot/cold is great. The leftovers are left to cool, mold and then cut into slices and sauted. I serve the slices with maple syrup, although I don't think that is the traditional way. Mamalega is very filling "peasant food" from the old country--great in the winter.

10:19 AM, March 07, 2010  
Blogger the purcells said...

we've really come to love polenta as well. this post (http://picturesandpancakes.blogspot.com/2009/04/foodie-fun.html) and polaroid were from an amazing long lunch at zuni cafe that of course included the creamy polenta . . and roast chicken, bloody marys and shoestring fries! i really need to get the cookbook!

10:31 AM, March 07, 2010  
Blogger physicschick said...

Growing up in Texas, I have eaten plenty of grits but never polenta. I have definitely been inspired to try it.

My dad and I grew 5 acres of sweet corn when I was a kid. We harvested all the we and our neighbors could eat and left the rest to dry for the cows. When the corn wad dried,my dad found a small grist mill and rigged a small motor to it. We ground corn for every one,and it made the BEST cornbread which we cooked in an antique wood stove. It's a really special memory. I wonder if you could make polenta from that fresh cornmeal?

I enjoy your blog. Thank you!

Lara
Http://ifyouloveitfeedit.com

10:51 AM, March 07, 2010  
Blogger Sophia Katt said...

You don't even have to heat the stuff on the top of the stove. I use a gently modified version of Schneider's "A New Way To Cook" method. I just heat the oven to 375 degrees, toss in 3 3/4 c. water, 1 cup cornmeal, and 3/4 tsp salt in a casserole dish, put on the lid and stick in the oven for 45 minutes. Stir the pot, lower the temp to 350, and cook 15 minutes move. Always perfect, and done in the time it takes to cook something else and have a drink.

11:00 AM, March 07, 2010  
Blogger Spiralstyle said...

I LOVE polenta. Used to add the polenta to boiling water and stir like mad but Mark Bittman convinced me to start the polenta in cold water and bring to a boil and simmer with the occasional stir. The best is leftovers for breakfast with a fried egg on top.

11:19 AM, March 07, 2010  
Anonymous Ariel said...

Yay polenta! I've been using a recipe from a recent Cook's Illustrated, which I would be able to link to if they weren't so protective of their recipes: http://www.cooksillustrated.com/recipes/login.asp?docid=23255. Keeping it covered and using a flame tamer to keep the heat very, very low are the main secrets I remember off the top of my head.

11:19 AM, March 07, 2010  
Anonymous clickychick said...

Once I discovered the polenta-in-the-oven method, I've never looked back. So insanely easy. No more tubes! :) I also once, in a pinch, followed directions on a polenta package for (gasp!) polenta finished in the microwave. Seriously not bad. Too bad I just had brunch or I'd be making our weekend favorite--creamy polenta topped with shaved parmesan, diced tomatoes, chiffonade basil, oven-made bacon (another technique that changed my cooking life) and two eggs over easy. Best. breakfast. ever.

11:39 AM, March 07, 2010  
Anonymous Kristin said...

I work in West Seattle, and often have lunch at a wonderful place called the Blue Willow Luncheonette on Oregon Street in the Junction. Patty, the owner, often serves triangles of fried polenta topped with roasted vegetables and grated parmesan cheese. The combination is wonderful (as is everything else she serves)!

11:45 AM, March 07, 2010  
Anonymous mb said...

Such funny synchronicity, you mentioning polenta and Bob's and Rodgers' book (just discovered how amazing it is!) now--after hearing about Bob's awesome gesture it reminded me to use my very same bag of polenta 'cause I have a ton of ground meat I need to use up and I was thinking of doing a cheater's fast Bolognese sauce over polenta, but the recipe I have calls for the instant kind and I don't have it. And I too have always been intimidated by the stuff--along with risotto I've been pretty content writing it off as "food I order out because I can't be arsed to perfect something so finicky." I was using those tubes at home too, to dissatisfaction...I will totally give this a shot tonight.

It makes me laugh that the word verification below is "restina." It oughta be retsina, no? (:

11:55 AM, March 07, 2010  
Blogger The Wino said...

Dear Molly,

Your blog and your book have really inspired me. I have taken your advice to "just keep writing, and have fun with it." Thank you!

I have started writing about you in my fledgling blog (but not in a stalker way). I have paired Burg's Potato Salad with an inexpensive wine. I hope you don't mind. http://seattlewinenovice.blogspot.com/

Cheers!

12:00 PM, March 07, 2010  
Blogger Keira said...

I find that replacing some of the water with white wine makes for some extra special polenta. Really delicious. And roasted garlic! And herbs! Amazing.

12:02 PM, March 07, 2010  
Blogger FoodieNextDoor said...

I have always wanted to make polenta at home and, like you (and many others who left comments), was intimated by the recipes and cooking instructions. I'm glad you posted this. I will have to make some polenta soon!

As for the plastic wrap, it doesn't really matter if the wrap is touching the food (is what I've heard); the proximity is bad enough. What I'm wondering is what is the point of the plastic wrap? You're covering the polenta with a lid anyhow, right?

12:45 PM, March 07, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My only exposure to polenta is from a friend who hunts and gathers and butchers and cans and cooks. He serves polenta cut up in chunks with a tomato sauce which contains sausage, pheasant, rabbit, and home-canned wild mushrooms. Wow, wow, wow: It is so delicious! I tell him whenever he serves it that it must be the most labor-intensive meal that I eat.

1:01 PM, March 07, 2010  
Blogger jessica. said...

I've recently started using Irish or steel-cut oatmeal in place of polenta in dishes. It's so much less finicky, and it takes so well to savory treatments. It might sound super-weird, but you guys should give it a try! Steel-cut oats + wild mushrooms + a little good butter, a little freshly grated Parm = get it, girl.

1:26 PM, March 07, 2010  
Anonymous Adele @ WillworkforBiltong said...

Maize porridge is our South African staple. It's like polenta, only white in colour. For me this is the ultimate comfort food. Not only is it rich and creamy, but there's nothing more comforting than food that reminds you of home.

1:29 PM, March 07, 2010  
Anonymous GF PATISSERIE said...

I said it many times, I say it again.

Polenta is the most underrated gluten free food out there.

We eat it often, we eat it with many different flavors added.

1:53 PM, March 07, 2010  
Blogger peaknits said...

I admit when your blog lights up on my bloglines roll, I immediately think "what will I be making now?" yay! Anyways - I'll be making polenta soon but not before buying this cookbook, because really, if you say it's a favorite, it's a MUST have for me:) Thank you for all of your kitchen inspiration!

2:02 PM, March 07, 2010  
Blogger Magdalena said...

Hello. Interesting post. I like polenta, too, my favorite version is with parmiggiano and gremolata, served with ossobucco. Nothing exceptional...
I didn't know polenta when I was a kid, because in Poland it was not available in shops in the 1980's.

2:02 PM, March 07, 2010  
Anonymous burnttoast said...

I was scared of polenta as well, so I told myself they were slow cooked thick Italian grits until I got over it!! A lovely winter dish. If you are in Asheville, NC. eat at Tupelo Honey cafe for breakfast. They have fried grits/polenta with jalapenos/salsa and it is as good as caffeine to jump start your day!

2:16 PM, March 07, 2010  
Anonymous thedelishdish said...

i just made my first polenta a few weeks ago and was amazed at how creamy and satisfying it was! definitely want to test out your recipe & have been curious about polenta fries or squares so want to give that a go as well!

2:18 PM, March 07, 2010  
Blogger sixty-five said...

A funny thing happened on my way to the Zuni Cafe cookbook which I hadn't looked at in a while. Right next to it, on the shelf, was Barbara Kafka's Microwave Gourmet Healthstyle Cookbook, which I hadn't looked at in an even longer while. Here's her polenta technique: Combine 4 c water, 3/4 c cornmeal, and 1 t kosher salt in a 2.5 qt casserole or souffle dish. Microwave uncovered for 6 min. Stir, cover loosely with paper toweling, and cook 6 min more. Remove, stir in some freshly ground black pepper and let stand for 3 minutes. Serve hot.

I must have used this book a lot in the 90's - it's filled with my scribbled annotations. I think it's time for another look.

2:35 PM, March 07, 2010  
Blogger Erika said...

My fav polenta recipe of the moment is from Peter Berley's Flexitarian Table cookbook. The main addition is fresh corn, right after the cornmeal/water mix comes back up to a bubble. I use corn that I froze last summer, straight from the freezer. It adds super-sweet nubbly bits that contrast so nicely with the creamy-nutty base. Plus if there is a lump or two, no one notices so much since the corn adds texture :) Finish with some white beans or quick-saute shrimp in sage and butter sauce and you can survive these last few days of grey before spring really arrives!

2:41 PM, March 07, 2010  
Blogger Erika said...

Oh, for Quinn--try your local thrift shop. You might be able to find a vintage Crockpot which can be rescued from a terrible fate in a land-fill somewhere.

2:43 PM, March 07, 2010  
Blogger Jen S. said...

I love polenta, but don't have a satisfying recipe. I'll give this one a try with my favorite complement to it: mixed mushrooms sauteed in butter, garlic and thyme.

2:48 PM, March 07, 2010  
Blogger Amanda Hawkins said...

You're ALL making me hungry! Polenta, ah, my heart is yours, and Molly, now you are my renewing cupid, as I had given up for a while on the polenta thing because it always tastes funny, and I always seemed to need more water (and more, and more) and it was never ever right. I will try this, if not right this minute, soon, very very soon. Thanks!

3:07 PM, March 07, 2010  
Blogger Jennifer said...

We make polenta all the time--if you follow the recipe on the side of the Bob's Red Mill bag for cereal, it takes about 10-15 minutes. After it has cooked for the five minutes, we just let it sit until ready to serve. We often add fresh grated parmeson and frozen organic sweet corn.

I too used to follow the official polenta recipe and stir it forever but my husband figured out the cereal recipe and it's been almost as easy as couscous!

3:22 PM, March 07, 2010  
Anonymous Betty A said...

All this fretting about polenta is such nonsense! It's easy... heavy bottomed pot, gentle heat, stir very occasionally, no worries. Have made it tons, never hovered and it's always turned out great. Don't know how polenta became such a fraught exercise. Relax and enjoy. PS I've lived in Italy and no one there becomes so paranoid about their polenta. :-)

3:28 PM, March 07, 2010  
Blogger jacqui said...

I thought I didn't like polenta at all, but I had only eaten it out of those tubes, then my Italian grandpa cooked some for a family dinner and I fell in love with it! He must have know this little secret about not needing to stir it constantly because he is a little too scattered these days to have that kind of patience! And it turned out perfect. I need to make it myself now.

3:38 PM, March 07, 2010  
OpenID jeanneeatsworld said...

I must try this polenta method! I have to confess to microwaving a 4:1 ratio of water to cornmeal to make a polenta-esque standby, but it's nowhere near as good as real polenta.

4:18 PM, March 07, 2010  
Blogger Denise | Chez Danisse said...

I've never heard of this polenta holding period. Thank you for the tip. Especially creamy certainly works for me!

4:28 PM, March 07, 2010  
Blogger Rebecca said...

you've made me feel a bit more confident about giving polenta a try...dare i say...maybe this week...maybe.

4:35 PM, March 07, 2010  
Anonymous The Rowdy Chowgirl said...

I'm all for recipes that allow you to walk away for a few minutes.

And I'm glad you mentioned the plastic wrap issue--I was sort of picturing little plastic molecules pinging into the polenta...

5:05 PM, March 07, 2010  
Anonymous Angie Muresan said...

I have grown up eating polenta almost on a daily basis. My favorite is making it into a pie with forest mushrooms, smoked salmon and a variation of cheeses.

6:09 PM, March 07, 2010  
Blogger Megan Gordon said...

Too funny. I think those tubes of polenta turned me off of it altogether for a good ten years. As a vegetarian in the 90's, this was the thing to order, eat, cook...but I'd always heard rumors of its utter impossibility as well. So you've nudged me to give it a whirl and to buy the Zuni Cookbook for Heaven's sake! It's been on my list for quite sometime...

7:10 PM, March 07, 2010  
Blogger jen said...

i'm so glad you're on the wagon, it is wonderful isn't it? i had a bad experience with a polenta cake recently. but it hasn't frightened me away from creamed polenta just yet; thank goodness.

9:14 PM, March 07, 2010  
Blogger tawc said...

strange, perhaps, but i like my polenta with a few lumps...
those little bits, like the piece of chewable veg in a pureed soup, oddly satisfying no?
i also like my polenta with zuchinni, and sage, and ricotta salata...plus a few lumps.

10:58 PM, March 07, 2010  
Blogger Julie said...

I always make mine in the slow cooker, and it's fantastic. I make a big batch at once so we can eat it once soft and warm and the leftovers firm and fried (actually, I sometimes dump half of the polenta into a pie plate and let it firm up and then make a quiche in that "crust"). So good, so easy.

12:29 AM, March 08, 2010  
Anonymous zephyr said...

Thank you, Molly!
i've been scared of polenta, too...but love it. Your post gives me hope that i can make my own. the "holding in a double boiler" idea is, indeed brilliant. Bought Bob's corn grits polenta yesterday and will give this method a whirl.

6:53 AM, March 08, 2010  
Anonymous noëlle {simmer down!} said...

Wow... I had no idea there was this whole subculture of polenta-fearing cooks out there! I never heard any of those caveats about sprinkling and stirring "just so", and thus was blissfully ignorant enough to cook it up without reservations. In fact, it's one of the dishes I'm the most "loose" with- I boil some water, add the poleta, and then just keep adding more liquid as needed until it gets where I want it to be.

I'm right there with you on the Zuni Café Cookbook- I would also venture to say that it may be my all-time favorite, or at least in a top rotating three. So much good stuff in there, and such well-considered writing.

7:00 AM, March 08, 2010  
Blogger Kristina said...

Another idea for something to stir into polenta:
Camembert.

There, I said it.

7:10 AM, March 08, 2010  
Blogger jennifer said...

wow! i had NO idea that polenta was such an issue with so many people. I've never even heard of such polenta problems and I cooked professionally for 16 years. I love polenta and make it all the time. I like it grilled but my favorite is creamy! served with mussels and a garlicky broth of white wine, fennel and plum tomatoes! OMG, I need to have that tonight.

7:21 AM, March 08, 2010  
Blogger michaela said...

i recently made the polenta from bitten with shrimp. i used bob's red mill corn polenta too.

7:30 AM, March 08, 2010  
Blogger AMUSE-BOUCHE FOR TWO said...

When we have polenta for Sunday supper, my boyfriend and I take turns with his father stirring a huge pot with a large wooden dowel. Before the stirring commences there is often a small argument about the level of the water in the pot. The stirring takes about 20 minutes. We're all hovering around the stove. His mother dips her finger into the piping hot polenta to taste. We add butter and parmesan. When ready, it's scooped onto plates were it sets a bit. At that point it it scored and heaps of red sauce made with sliced sausage and mushroom or cauliflower and broccoli is added. We fill up and there are always leftovers to take home or walk down the street to other family members. While I'm sure they wouldn't mind not stirring so much, it's tradition. Everyone hovering together, taking turns stirring...I love it, la polenta.

7:50 AM, March 08, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

polenta - yum. I love all things cornmeal! I learned the double boiler method from Lynne Rossetto Kasper's The Italian Country Table, which is full of simple, delicious recipes.

8:17 AM, March 08, 2010  
Blogger Jen said...

I ate at Zuni Cafe on my honeymoon! I'm going to have to buy that cookbook as a momento!

8:26 AM, March 08, 2010  
Blogger Erica the Ninja said...

I have to say, I a HUGE sucker for polenta. Like crazy-in-love-I-want-to-eat-it-for-every-meal. I love the idea of the double boiler. I always wondered how to keep polenta soft for an extended period of time.

I sometimes add bullion to the cooking water (or use fresh vegetable stock) to knock it out of the park. You want to go for subtle flavor here, nothing TOO strong, but I promise you will like it...

8:49 AM, March 08, 2010  
Blogger rebecca said...

many a polenta opinion here...

we all like the everyday food version. soft. warm. never lumpy.

added bonus! the oven temp (425F) is just right for roasting yukon golds+sweet potatoes at the same time, and they go great with the polenta.

9:24 AM, March 08, 2010  
Blogger Boneflowers said...

I love polenta! My favorite way to fix it is with a bit of cream cheese instead of Parmesan, then topped with steamed asparagus and a poached egg. So good!

10:36 AM, March 08, 2010  
Blogger Marty52 said...

To me, polenta is another word for cornmeal mush. Many times breakfasts on cold winter days were made of fried cornmeal mush. A day or two before we planned to eat it, we would make the mush (or polenta) and pour it into several loaf pans. Once it was cold, we would pop it out of the loaf pans, wrap in aluminum foil and store in the fridge. Come morning, we would slice it in about 3/8" slices and fry in butter until golden brown. Served with maple syrup it's a breakfast to die for. I'm making myself hungry!

12:35 PM, March 08, 2010  
Anonymous Sharmila, Cheeky Chilli said...

It took me a while to assimilate what appeared to be common knowledge; that polenta is supposed to be tricky to make. Maybe it is exactly because of my ignorance that this polenta recipe from my favourite Greens cookbook worked out so well. I fell in love with polenta at that restaurant. It does cool pretty fast though so I can't wait to try out this holding method you've outlined.

Making polenta is not my brand of heart-attack inducer. But then, the stuff other people make in a cinch, like cookies, give me terrible palpitations. To each their own,eh?

Love reading the post, as always.

12:58 PM, March 08, 2010  
Blogger Christine said...

I had never heard the horror stories of the difficulties of polenta, and I supposed I've been really lucky! My hubby recently threw it all in the pot (with both milk and water) & stirred a bit-- probably not more than 20 minutes (how have we gotten away with this?), and turned out great...
It makes me wonder what I'm missing in "real" polenta...

Flour & Water is just a few blocks from my house, and I've been wanting to go there since it opened. I'll have to try their polenta, when I do! :)

In the mean time, I look forward to using your method, Molly.

1:01 PM, March 08, 2010  
Blogger goldendovedesign said...

Yum! I love polenta and can't wait to try your take on it! BTW, I met you at Sip and Ship in Ballard where I work, and I finally got to Delancey a few weeks ago. It was AMAZING- as I am sure you've been told!

1:15 PM, March 08, 2010  
Blogger Kim said...

Thank you for the post on polenta! You reminded me of one of my favorite "brunch for company" recipes, via epicurious:

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Bacon-Wrapped-Eggs-with-Polenta-231872

And...it doesn't require constant stirring!!! ;>

4:16 PM, March 08, 2010  
Anonymous spoiledonlychild said...

What I am dying to know about polenta: Do you have to use something that is labeled "polenta" (like Bob's Red Mill) or can you use the much, much cheaper corn meal? I have been too afraid to try the corn meal. But would it work?

8:01 PM, March 08, 2010  
Blogger Marcia Class of 77 said...

http://www.bobsredmill.com/corn-grits_polenta.html

Grits--no one ever said they were hard to make. Polenta--same thing--just a different name.

I love ice cream grits--made from a special corn that is extra sweet. Try polenta-grits with cheese in them.

Make them in a Crock Pot; or cook and use milk instead of water. Mmm I may have to fix some for breakfast in the morning!

8:05 PM, March 08, 2010  
Anonymous Sharna said...

I'm reading your book right now and loving every minute of it.... I don't even know how I stumbled onto it but it had made it's way onto my list of things to read. When I picked it up I was delighted to see "Orangette" on the cover! I was all "Oh! I know her!" Well, your blog anyway.... Enjoying it thoroughly! Thanks!

9:01 PM, March 08, 2010  
Anonymous Sharna said...

p.s. I've always wanted to try polenta... I have a list for that too-things I want to try. You've made it sound irrestistable!

9:02 PM, March 08, 2010  
Anonymous Shirin said...

This must be your funniest post yet! You have such a way with words.

I've always been intimidated by polenta as well, so reading this gave me a mini-eureka! moment. I'll have to try it.

11:04 PM, March 08, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh, this sets of my nostalgy mode ! back to the times when I was in northern italy as an au-pair-girl; and they had this big family estate with several houses. There was a big dinner (> 16 guests) in one of the houses and I was instructed to cook a huuuge pot of polenta (while the others had the pre-dinner-drinks etc) and bring it over. I gamely set to work and was very proud of my lump-free polenta when I realised I had my ratio wrong and had only incorporated half of the required amount of cornmeal. I stirred in the rest and hoped for the best -- and it was declared by everyone the very best soft polenta ever ! Aaand I had to stir those huge pots of polenta for ever freaking family feast, and believe me, there are a lot of those in an italian family.
Thanks to Fortuna, I now know that I channeled my inner Romanian with that half-half method, which I still use 15 years later :)

5:12 AM, March 09, 2010  
Blogger Liz G. said...

Cooks Illustrated did an article on polenta this month. Their recipe has you add a pinch of baking soda, stir it in, and then leave it on the stovetop simmering away for 30 minutes. No stirring. :)

http://www.cooksillustrated.com/recipes/article.asp?docid=23339

5:19 AM, March 09, 2010  
Anonymous Robyn said...

This is one of my all-time favourite comfort foods! But I like to add bucketloads of Parmesan, and eat it with grilled veggies....
I heard once that the layer that's left stuck to the bottom of the pot can be crisped and eaten with sugar and is quite delicious - though I can't remember where I heard that, and clearly I didn't have the right pot because I could not get it off! There, wasn't that helpful...

5:32 AM, March 09, 2010  
Blogger Melinda Feucht said...

Molly, above all else, you made a bowl of polenta look dreamy - kudos to you! Our lunch boxes will definitely be seeing little soft sqaures of polenta in the foreseeable future!

6:48 AM, March 09, 2010  
Anonymous Dirk L. Archibold Chester said...

Well done on the polenta -- I share a similar sentiment with regards to quinoa.

Dirk Archibold-Chester
Food Lovers Heaven

7:42 AM, March 09, 2010  
Blogger Katie said...

I recall there being a chapter or two in the book Heat where the author was completely obsessed with learning how to make the perfect polenta. While his process seemed a bit much, it inspired me to try making it and I've been obsessed ever since. I love the idea of using the double-boiler method at the end so I will have to try this. Great post!

7:46 AM, March 09, 2010  
Blogger 12th Man Training Table said...

total brain cramp right now ... but just saw a version where you stir the cornmeal for X minutes, then plop it into the oven for 20-30. No more stirring. but of course, i didn't tag it and can't find it.

8:14 AM, March 09, 2010  
Blogger Alice Q. Foodie said...

Good to know! I also love that cookbook - I open it all the time for inspiration, and everything I've made from it has turned out great.

How's it going at the restaurant? If you have time we'd love to hear the latest! ;)

10:45 AM, March 09, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Risott does to me what polenta (did) to you.

Plus, when you see all the negativity associated with it on shows like Top Chef, where it always seems to come out wrong who in their right mind would cook it?

10:45 AM, March 09, 2010  
Blogger Cristina said...

I made your Marmalade cake and loved it so I'm thinking that I now need to make 'your' polenta. I may never research a recipe again and just take all of yours! They are just THAT good.

11:08 AM, March 09, 2010  
Blogger ff said...

@spoiledonlychild, I use cornmeal & make the polenta in the oven per this recipe: http://bento-mama.blogspot.com/ Comes out great every time.

Then I serve this oven-roasted ratatouille over it: http://chocolateandzucchini.com/archives/2005/04/ovenroasted_ratatouille.php

Both are so much easier to make in the oven than on the stovetop & they taste wonderful.

11:27 AM, March 09, 2010  
Blogger Danielle said...

I think I too have had an underlying intimidation regarding polenta. It's silly really but since I only became aware of it when I read about chefs making it...This seems to be a great method and will give it a try. Thanks!

11:48 AM, March 09, 2010  
Anonymous denice said...

Love your blog,it makes me drool. And I'm very jealous of the many polenta memories. I was just thinking of trying it for the first time (ever!) and now I've been pushed over the edge. Thank you!!

12:37 PM, March 09, 2010  
Blogger Amanda said...

Once I realized that polenta cooks just like cream of wheat (but corn, of course), I started making it ALL THE TIME. Risotto, on the other hand--terrified! I have yet to have a risotto turn out right.

2:05 PM, March 09, 2010  
Blogger Cooklyn Veg said...

I too have 'polenta fear' - something I have to overcome - maybe this recipe will be the one. I had a similar fear of gnocchi - too slimy! - until I discovered the pan frying / sauteing method - no more slime!

2:23 PM, March 09, 2010  
Anonymous Emily in Ann Arbor said...

Try this version (called "Cornmeal and Goat Cheese Pudding") from "Recipes from Home":
Bring 1.75 cups milk to simmer and whisk in 1/2 cup cornmeal/polenta. Stir in 1 tbsp butter and 1 tsp salt until thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in goat cheese, then sprinkle with pepper and fresh rosemary.

I've substituted it for the spaghetti in your spaghetti and kale recipe from Bon Appetit--mighty tasty!

5:13 PM, March 09, 2010  
Blogger Sarah said...

What perfect timing! Just yesterday (without reading this post) I bought my first box of polenta and had yet to look up ways to cook it. I am so excited to try this recipe. Thanks for sharing Molly!

7:20 PM, March 09, 2010  
Blogger Deborah W said...

Can't help but think that polenta (which I cook often and use interchangeably with corn meal) could be cooked overnight in a crock pot the same way as steel-cut oats are....I'm going to try it. It would be deLISH for breakkie!

Deborah at DebzTalkin, a blogspot blog

9:23 PM, March 09, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had a wonderful dish at a restaurant that used polenta and we've loved our home version of it too.
You cook the polenta and add parmesan cheese. Once it has cooled in a tin of a decent thickness you slice it into large slices. Heat a up a frying pan and cook until the edges are golden. Crisp on the outside and deliciously creamy on the inside.

12:03 AM, March 10, 2010  
Blogger Tamera said...

We grew up eating this for breakfast with baking powder biscuits. Unfortunately we called it "cornmeal mush". It was rarely lumpy. Mom always boiled a pot of water and then mixed the cornmeal with some cold water before adding it to the pot. No manic stirring needed!

5:11 AM, March 10, 2010  
Blogger ALFIE said...

polenta fears vanished. can't wait to try this :) thanks!

6:53 AM, March 10, 2010  
Blogger TD said...

The use of plastic wrap in heat situations is an issue I've seen before on other food blogs. Specifically in cases where it's something like lasagna and the instructions are to cover the pan with plastic wrap and then foil.

Saran Wrap (or whatever you get for home use) can't be heated in any way. It melts. It might be OK over the double boiler, provided the bowl it was covering didn't get too hot. But there's a chance it could stick to either or both pans.

Commercial plastic wrap is different, and can be put in the oven, exposed to heat, etc. When I worked in catering, we did it all the time. You can buy commerical plastic wrap from Amazon, among other places.

8:48 AM, March 10, 2010  
Anonymous Margie said...

I adore polenta in all its forms - it has the same comforting quality that I find in cream of wheat. However, I find that my polenta generally languishes in the pantry, forgotten in favor of pasta, couscous, or farina - I dig it out whenever I make pizza, and then it goes back into hiding.

I just started eating meat again after 8 years without, and I made a batch of Marcella Hazan's Bolognese sauce which is now sitting happily in my freezer. I was thinking of making some fresh pasta to go with it, but I think I may go ahead and dig my polenta out instead.

8:48 AM, March 10, 2010  
Blogger zuzazak said...

i'm intimidated by polenta too! glad it wasn't just me ;o) and will try the recipe this weekend

have linked to your inspiring blog on my lil blog, here:

http://cheesy-mash.blogspot.com

zuza

9:28 AM, March 10, 2010  
Anonymous A bowl of porridge... said...

I cannot wait to try this recipe! My granny was my family's original 'Polenta lover' and she used to make it for us when we were very young. I have to admit that I didn’t exactly find it appealing at the time (I was 9) but I am fully converted now!

10:15 AM, March 10, 2010  
Blogger Molly said...

TD, you're so right! I had forgotten about that distinction, even though I use commercial plastic wrap at home. (I buy it in big rolls at Cash & Carry.) It really is a different animal. Not sure if it's any safer, really, but it's worth thinking about.

11:38 AM, March 10, 2010  
Anonymous lisa s said...

Polenta is also my nemisis. With these two idea, I will be trying to make it this weekend. Thanks all.

12:26 PM, March 10, 2010  
Anonymous FreshDillandParsley said...

I grew up on polenta as I come from a polenta-eating country (not italy) and my grandparents made it every day. although I make it for myself, i find it hard to write down a recipe. It's mostly instinctual for me. Some people like it creamier, others like it harder. It's such a personal thing. One thing to remember, is to add salt to the water before you add the cornmeal. If you add salt when the polenta is almost done it will not taste that good. I also remember that in my family the cornmeal was added once the water started to boil. However, I add it while the water is still cold.

2:02 PM, March 10, 2010  
Blogger Leigh and Anthony said...

This is going to seem silly after everyone raving about polenta, but is this recipe better than instant polenta?

Leigh

7:46 PM, March 10, 2010  
Blogger Betty said...

polenta chips are THE best!

well done & congrats for overcoming your fear of making polenta

p.s i love your polaroid shots :O)

8:39 PM, March 10, 2010  
Anonymous Crystal said...

I too was afraid of polenta until I came across a similar recipe to yours and now I am a convert. My recipe serves it with garlic butter - to die for!

2:15 AM, March 11, 2010  
Anonymous Fernanda said...

It's amazing how such a not complicated italian dish has bee attracting so many people lately. In our restaurant, we make a great and simple polenta recipe and our customers have been loving it!

4:31 AM, March 11, 2010  
Blogger vb said...

I am so inspired to go home right now and make polenta. I'm not really intimidated by polenta at all but for some reason I rarely make it. I don't know why, I have a huge bag of it patiently waiting to be used. Now I have a reason and a choice of options for what to make, thanks!

6:02 AM, March 11, 2010  
Blogger Speckle of Dirt said...

I'm very excited to try polenta now! I actually have sausage in my fridge and tomatoes I canned last fall. Thanks for the inspiration!

6:33 AM, March 11, 2010  
Blogger Anne Zimmerman said...

Oh I love polenta. It is one of my favorite comfort foods. I might have to make some today... I feel a cold coming on.

7:55 AM, March 11, 2010  
Anonymous Willi said...

My grandmother is Italian and she always pour cold water over her dry polenta before putting it in the boiling water. Works like a charm. She also has a special stick that she uses to stir it with and cooks it in a copper pan. I don't have either of those special tools and never have a problem with lumpy polenta.

8:39 AM, March 11, 2010  
Anonymous Jane said...

Polenta...must be the weather, rainy and cold, everyone is making polenta. I also saw the NY Times Mark Bittman Polenta, but it was the Russ Parsons, LA Times oven baked method that won me over. I had mine with roasted asparagus and sauteed Shiitake mushrooms, yummy!

11:55 AM, March 11, 2010  
Anonymous my little expat kitchen said...

I never actually had polenta, ever. Your post is so convincing though that I might have to try it! The non-stirring part is a plus!
Magda

5:03 PM, March 11, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since folks are talking about risotto...I once followed a very tortured recipe from La Cucina Italiana magazine that involved lots of fresh meat stock, a specific red wine and parmegiano reggiano.

The result was pretty but it tasted like cat barf smells. I have not tried risotto again.

Asa

7:13 PM, March 11, 2010  
Blogger Georgie said...

I really had never tried Polenta, and I'm not sure why since I love that kind of thing, until a few years ago. I bought a log of it at a health food store. It was awful!!!! So I thought I was a polenta-hater. Then, recently, polenta was served to me along with duck medallions. I tried it and loved it. When I think back I realize the log I bought must have been rancid.

So know I know I love it and since it sounds as if it's not too difficult, it may become a staple. Thanks for the recipe. Glad to have y ou back. How is the restaurant? My daughter and her husband are moving to Proctor in Tacoma and I am making sure that it will be their first restaurant stop.

6:21 AM, March 12, 2010  
Blogger Cozy Knitting said...

My husband loved baked grits(baby polenta), and I never quite liked the texture of grits. So I make the corn mush according to the directions, add some butter, egg and milk mixture,seasonings and cheese. Bake in oven until everything is bubbly. It's a great casserole to serve with morning guests or brunch.

9:22 AM, March 12, 2010  
Blogger Tracie Tsuneya said...

I am yet to try polenta.
I've heard it's basically the Italian version of grits?
I tried grits for the first time recentlly and loved them. I shoudl try polenta now.

1:50 PM, March 12, 2010  
OpenID tbonesandtofu said...

How funny! I just wrote about this amazing soft polenta recipe by Mario Batali. It's another of those variations that help you realized good tools are all you need for good polenta. The recipe is very soft polenta with bay scallop raguout.

1:56 PM, March 12, 2010  
Blogger erin michelle said...

i'm not sure if any of the other 157 ppl who have left you a comment yet have shared this with you, but the only way i've ever made polenta is like 4 cups water, 1 cup grits, a blob of olive oil, a dash of salt, in a cast iron, in the oven at like 400, for 40 minutes, left alone, then stirred at 40, then baked 10 more. i think that's right. i read it in the passionate vegetarian by cresent dragonwagon. i've lost some of my vegetarian passion but she's a damn good food writer. it's so easy, it's a shame i'm the only memeber of my family who likes the finished product. it's so easy and smushy and corn meal is practically free!! it's so fun to grill!!! i like it baked with fontina and tomato sauce in a pyrex!!! oh gosh i might have to make some. cheers, lady!

4:12 PM, March 12, 2010  
Blogger Liz said...

I'm not sure if anyone addressed the plastic wrap issue, directly (there are a LOT of comments here, I skimmed through them), but my father-in-law told me that plastic wrap was safe up to a certain temperature, mind you, I don't know where he got this information from. BUT, I do know he cooks his ribs in a low oven wrapped in plastic wrap and aluminum foil. This is also the man who would not have a microwave because he didn't know what kind of ray (or what have you) they emitted and does not like to consume strange chemicals. So, just putting it out there that he's been using plastic wrap in the oven for years and has suffered no ill side effects... but who really knows. I didn't really answer anything, but there's a little more experience with cooking and plastic wrap.

Your polenta looks lovely. My college served polenta occassionally and really didn't do it justice. I have yet to come across it in another setting, I've been dying to try some properly made. Since it does not sound as scary as I thought it would sound, I am going to have to give it a try. Your bravery will inspire mine.

7:30 PM, March 12, 2010  
Blogger Geoff said...

just cooked polenta for my culinary rotation in culinary school (I am in the desserts and breads program) and it seemed easy enough. I waited for it to solidify and then cut it up and wrapped it in prosciutto and fried a la chicken saltimbocca. Didn't turn out quite as well as chicken, but interresting. Seems like polenta could be very versatile. Wouldn't call it scary tho 8^).

12:29 AM, March 14, 2010  
Anonymous mitzimi @ the-ice-cream-maker.com said...

I think you've inspired me to get over my polenta fear and give it a go. Between your photos, your post and everyone's comments here, I feel a sudden surge of courage I might succeed yet!

9:58 AM, March 14, 2010  
Blogger Chris & Dede said...

I, too, had a polenta issue. It dated back to 1990, when we were having Christmas dinner at my sister's house in Portland (oregon). It snowed. A lot. We risked life and limb descending a treacherously icy 3 storey outside stairway to go for a walk before dinner. We smelled all kinds of good smells on our cold walk and really looked forward to dinner, We returned to find that my sister had "forgotten" to buy the main course meat for Christmas dinner, so we were having polenta with tomato sauce. I had never had polenta before (this WAS 1990)and we were so disappointed in our Christmas dinner that we boycotted polenta for years.

I have, however, come to my senses and now make it regularly. I like to use half homemade chicken stock and half milk (skim or leftover whey from making cheese). I love polenta.

(also love your podcast "Spilled Milk"!)

6:02 PM, March 14, 2010  
Blogger Kat said...

My mom used to make me something like sweet polenta that is popular in Brazil. It is essentially milk, sugar, a touch of salt, and cornmeal. All of that in a pot and stirred until thick. I've made it after moving out, and I have to say, it only took me about 10 minutes of stirring to get it just right. It's a perfect breakfast.

2:17 AM, March 15, 2010  
Anonymous Natalie Thiele said...

Thank you, thank you. I was just complaining to a friend about polenta in a tube, so rubbery. I will try your recipe.
I am such a fiend for your caramel corn, I know you would never steer me wrong.

7:06 AM, March 15, 2010  
OpenID biz319 said...

Glad you tried polenta again! My MIL showed me how to make it - and yes, it involves a lot of stirring. I thought I would by pass the stirring by baking it, and it turned out like ass. But I made polenta fries out of it and that was delicious!!

http://biz319.wordpress.com/2009/12/31/polenta-fries/

8:49 AM, March 15, 2010  
Blogger Amaranthian said...

I absolutely love polenta, and my husband could eat nothing but and be perfectly happy. Luckily, I stumbled upon a super simple recipe in the the October 2008 issue of Bon Appetit. I haven't tried anything else since. Perhaps I'll give this one a try and see what I've been missing.

6:24 PM, March 15, 2010  
Anonymous Mary said...

I agree with everyone, thanks for igniting the polenta fire in me again. I do love it but have always had such mixed luck that I gave it up a while ago for those tubed ones too.

How did you find Flour + Water generally? Do they live up to the hype? I was so excited to take some visiting friends there and had a terrible experience trying for a table. We waited our first-estimated hour and then were told it would be another hour and a half, as though they hadn't put our name on the list in the first place! I'm usually pretty understanding about such things, but with guests it was a pretty embarrassing. We picked up our dignity and went somewhere else.

This post and the related commentary also make me really long for a crock pot! They are due for a comeback.

So happy to hear from you again! Hope it won't be so long until next time.

xo, Mary

9:25 PM, March 15, 2010  
Blogger Christine said...

Just saw the issue of Seattle Metropolitan on newsstands and flipped through, hoping to find a rave review on Delancey. (Of course I did indeed find such a review.) Congrats! I think my favorite part was Brandon's quote: "I like bubbles." We're hoping to come in tomorrow night for our anniversary dinner. I'm already drooling...

10:26 PM, March 15, 2010  
Blogger MsJess said...

I make polenta every so often and I can report that my last outing I put the corn meal up on a low boil and then (wait for it...) walked away to go watch some episodes of The Office. I didn't have any marscapone so I used cottage cheese. I served it over tomato butter sauce and it was delicious.

6:54 AM, March 16, 2010  
Blogger red ticking said...

love polenta... so sweet of you to "own it" as most of us have no idea how to even try to master this mysterious food... and to simply cut off the roll has always creeped me out... so when i dine out... i order it everytime...

9:34 AM, March 16, 2010  
Blogger Carla said...

This is my first time on this (or any) blog, but I want to say how much I am enjoying the book A HOME MADE LIFE. I am on the advisory board at Simon and Schuster, and they sent me the book. I usually have a hard time with books that involve a lot of cooking or recipes or cooking because I am a vegetarian, and reading about a lot of meat just grosses me out, but I just found out that Molly's husband is a vegetarian, and it almost feels like she gets me. This is a wonderful book - get it and read it today, you will be glad!

7:26 AM, March 17, 2010  
Blogger Martha said...

Regarding the plastic: What did various cultures around the world do BEFORE plastic? Examples of things being steamed or put in a double boiler that use plastic wrap now are - Chinese turnip cake, Thai sticky rice - what was used before plastic? leaves, maybe? Like banana leaves? A damp cloth?

And I was just researching how to make little Persian rice cookies, and the dough for those go in plastic wrap overnight.

10:33 AM, March 17, 2010  
Blogger Rylander said...

Molly,

This is random, I know, but the magazine I work for recently ran a mention of Delancey in our Recent Openings department. I was so excited when I saw it come through the line, as I've been reading your blog for years now. Congrats on your many successes, and may there be many more!

Cheers!

12:51 PM, March 17, 2010  
Anonymous Patty said...

I can never get my polenta to turn out quite right but I'm going to try out this recipe and hope for the best, wish me luck!

2:56 PM, March 17, 2010  
Blogger Claudia said...

I am a whiz at ignoring the stirring part. I stir. Sometimes. I bake it. Sometimes. But more than the warm liquidy meal, I adore it grilled or fried. Topped with parmesan or a gorgonzola sauce or tomatoes- or sweetened with sugar.

2:48 PM, March 19, 2010  
Blogger the polish chick said...

god, who knew it was difficult? it's my go-to quick dinner thing - i sautee some garlic in olive oil on a frying pan, then add the polenta (or grits) and then add water and stir every once in a while until it's absorbed and as soft or al dente as i want it to be. if it's too hard, i add more water, stir a bit until it's absorbed and voila!

1:34 PM, March 20, 2010  
Anonymous Julia said...

What an excellent post! I just discovered your blog by searching the best food blogs - and I love it!

I'll be checking it often.

2:43 PM, March 21, 2010  
Blogger dj said...

To made grits (polenta) richer and creamier use half water and half milk. Very good and creamy.

7:06 AM, March 25, 2010  
Anonymous jessiev said...

How can i say anything else, but COMPLETE YUM. thank you!

5:29 AM, March 26, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Polenta is also a traditional Romanian dish. It is prepared using the "corn meal mush" recipe on back of Quaker Yellow Corn Meal boxes:

4 cups water
1 cup corn meal
1 teaspoon salt

Bring 3 cups water to a boil. Combine remaining 1 cup water, corn meal and salt; slowly pour into boiling water stirring constantly. Cook until thickened; stirring frequently. Cover; continue cooking over low heat 5 minutes; stir.

This takes 10min tops. Pour polenta on a flat dish to cool faster. Let it "breathe" for 5 minutes. Use it as a side, use it with sauces. Romanian traditional way is to melt/crumble feta in it. It's very delicious. We make it all the time. I don't understand why all recipes here require cooking it an hour? I've been eating this since I was a baby, and nobody in my family ever cooked it for more than 10min.

8:25 AM, March 27, 2010  
Blogger eM said...

instead of making this, I want to book a flight to SF and eat it at Zuni - with their chicken. Thanks. a. lot. ;-)

8:59 AM, March 28, 2010  
Blogger Mac Natty said...

I just tried this recipe after a long, bad day at work. The ratio of water to cornmeal is just right, and the texture came out perfectly creamy - and I've never made polenta before! The only thing is, no matter how much salt and butter I added, it just didn't seem to have a heckuva lot of flavor. Then inspiration struck and I stirred in just a tiny amount of sriracha - maybe a teaspoon for the whole pot. Instant savory perfection.

10:18 PM, March 30, 2010  
Blogger Shivery McPickles said...

Molly,

Dude. Quite simply, this recipe is the tits. I love to make polenta and grits, and was pretty pleased with how mine usually turn out, but this holding period business? Fantastic! It has changed my life.

I made some last week for my fiance and a friend with a ragout of sausage, broccoli rabe and mushrooms on top. He has requested it again for dinner tonight.

For reals. This is the stuff.

12:42 PM, April 24, 2010  
Anonymous kimswordonfood said...

Polenta is one of my favorites. I never knew it could be intimidating. Sauteed Polenta cakes, corn bread, polenta mash with feta cheese. Yum

Kim

4:17 PM, April 24, 2010  
Blogger maygirl7 said...

One -- well, two -- word. Rice cooker.

3:22 PM, May 11, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

when restaurant chefs say "plastic wrap" they mean the heavy duty PVC film used in restaurants not saran wrap..

5:51 PM, May 12, 2010  
Blogger Sigrid said...

One problem I get using the "stir occasionally"-method is a skin that builds on top and, being stirred back under, forms lumps. I think I stir every 10 minutes but that's enough time for the skin to build.

6:01 AM, May 13, 2010  
Anonymous Amy said...

I like your post..You inspired many people even they don't like polenta in the first place..But u prove them wrong..:)

10:28 PM, June 07, 2010  
Anonymous Outside Oslo said...

As I've been sick this week, polenta seemed like the perfect comfort food: hot, creamy, delicious. I remembered your recipe, which I'd tried before with success, and it hit the spot. If being sick means treating myself to as much delicious, creamy polenta as I want, maybe a little bug like this isn't so bad.

Regarding plastic wrap, Cooks Illustrated just posted some helpful info: http://www.cooksillustrated.com/howto/detail.asp?docid=26903

8:58 AM, January 21, 2011  
Anonymous katie moroney said...

The Zuni Cafe is my absolute favourite cookbook as well. Don't get me wrong it's got some stiff competition but an old chef of mine turned me onto it a few years ago and it's one of my constant "go to" reference books. I love that you love it too!

5:46 PM, February 16, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Polenta is a dish...."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polenta


Also, no reason not to start the preparation in cold water.....never any lumps!

6:20 AM, April 30, 2011  
Blogger Roo de Loo said...

I thought only annoying parents refer to things in "months" once they get past 12 - but I find myself saying that 17 months after your original post, I followed your proprietary polenta preparation and it came off without a hitch.

I tripled the recipe (I'm private-chefing for a bunch of yogis at Good Commons in Vermont) and the proportions were great, using a combination of homemade veg stock and water and finishing with some almond milk at the end. A hefty dash of salt, pepper, nutmeg and fresh thyme was added. To transcend from hospital food to vegan nirvana, I topped it off with wild mushroom friccassee. Yum.

7:51 PM, August 10, 2011  
Blogger Cassady Walters said...

Finally tried this. So glad I did!

7:07 AM, August 29, 2012  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I start my polenta the usual way. Once it has thickened a bit, I finish the cooking (45-60 min) in the top of a double boiler, over low-medium heat. Once it's done, I add butter and parm. It will keep over low heat for a long time.

8:55 PM, March 06, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Molly - I don't know whether I love you or hate you for this recipe...I am now obsessed with polenta and want it every day...seriously. Today I couldn't even wait out the 30-minute holding period..I caved after 24 minutes...It's just SO good...

11:36 AM, June 24, 2013  
Blogger Melanie Yarbrough said...

I just found this post via your most recent post (about Judy Rodgers' roasted applesauce), and I am so excited to try it. I've had delicious polenta (in restaurants) and always wondered about how it was made. I'm from the land of grits, and wondered how similar it was to that preparation. I've seen the tubes, as you mentioned, but those never seemed very appetizing to me. I can't wait to give this a try!

4:59 AM, April 07, 2014  
Blogger Melanie Yarbrough said...

I'm back! I made this tonight and it was so simple and delicious! I sautéed mushrooms and onions with spinach and red wine and balsamic vinegar to go on top. Thanks for sharing, I'm definitely hooked.

4:16 PM, April 10, 2014  

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