Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Let's get the obvious out of the way first.

Polenta is delicious but it's a pain to make. Thankfully, it's not difficult, it just requires a Zen attitude where you do nothing but stir. Patiently. (Bring a book and learn how to read it with the other hand!)

The discovery of the New World is what made corn popular in Europe. It transformed ancient food patterns into new ones with the discovery of a "cheaper" cereal.

Polenta is finely ground corn meal that is cooked slowly with water, salt and spices. It needs to be stirred frequently to prevent it from sticking, and this is boring. Also, towards the tail end it has a tendency to splatter so one must be careful.

Traditionally, it was made in a copper kettle that was hung over the fire with the kettle being whirled while the housewife walked back and forth doing her chores. The "mush" was poured out from the spigot and nobody asked too many questions.

Today alas, we have to stir it manually in an open pot over the stove. At least the non-stick coatings make this a relatively straightforward job!

There are multiple ways to enjoy it afterwards.

One is as a wet mush which is served as an accompaniment to meats, gravies, etc.

Another is to cook it and then pour it into a dish (and sometimes baked) where it will solidify into a "cake" which you can then cut up and serve with meats, gravies, etc.

Third is to take the solidified version and fry it again in olive oil or butter and some herbs to amp up the flavor. If you mentally thought that this is how you reheat it in older times in the absence of a microwave, give yourself a gold star.

The CC frequently makes it with dashi instead of plain water to give it a bit of an umami oomph.

Like all dishes that have multiple incarnations, preferences abound. The CC's is for the solider version.

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