Dried Tomato Polenta

On Monday I made up some polenta, which is cornmeal prepared as a porridge. Look for stone-ground cornmeal, since it is coarser and has more flavor. It can be a simple meal as a porridge (either sweet or savory; polenta with butter and honey is a wonderful breakfast on a cold morning!), or it can be prepared as a porridge, poured into a pan to chill and firm, then cut into smaller pieces and fried, baked, or grilled, which is what I did in this recipe. Polenta is one of my comfort foods.

Some thoughts: when does cornmeal become polenta? When water is added. And what is the difference between polenta and grits? Grits are made from ground hominy. And what’s the difference between hominy and corn? Hominy is corn soaked in lye or lime. The more you know…

I used a recipe from Cooks’ Illustrated Restaurant Favorites at Home: Sun-Dried Tomato Polenta, adapted from the Silver Peak Restaurant & Brewery in Reno, Nevada. I used oven-dried tomatoes that I preserved in mid-September.

Previous polenta recipes called for constant stirring of the simmering polenta for around 40 minutes. This recipe used an ingenious method: boil water, stir in corn meal, and then put the pot in a 350˚ oven, rather than constantly stirring it. Brilliant! And it worked splendidly. You just have to use an oven-safe pot for simmering so that you can transfer it directly to the hot oven for 40 minutes. Then, I added the dried tomatoes, cream, butter, and Asiago cheese to the porridge. I poured it in a glass 9 x 13 pan and stuck it in the frig “3 hours to 3 days.” That range makes it nice so you don’t have to do all steps at once, which is impossible on a work-night. After about five hours, I sliced the chilled polenta into triangles, placed them on a cookie sheet, and topped them with some shredded fontina cheese. A short 8 minutes later, you’ve got some polenta triangles with melting, slightly browned cheese. Add some tomato sauce and a salad and you’re ready to go!

Mixing it up
Cornmeal, broth, cream, Asiago cheese, butter, dried tomatoes

As my Dad says, “Make sure you have pu-lenty po-lenta.” Harhar!

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