Polenta and its many mushy relatives (from Chinese congee to American grits) have been made and eaten around the world for millennia, which means that eating it will put you well in touch with your human roots. Polenta is actually very easy to make, once you get past the notion of all the stirring it requires. Best of all, it's extremely versatile—it can be served soft, fresh from the pot, or chilled until hardened, then grilled, sauteed or deep fried.
This recipe was originally published in the Chicago Tribune.
Flavor the polenta by stirring in grated cheese or other flavoring ingredients, such as sauteed garlic, sauteed mushrooms, or pieces of cooked vegetables or meat. You can also increase its richness and creaminess by stirring in a small amount of cream or fresh butter.
- 3 Cups water
- 1 Teaspoon salt
- 1 Cup polenta
Step 1: To a pan, add 3 cups water. Bring to a boil.
Step 2: Add 1 teaspoon salt to the boiling water. While people differ on how much salt is appropriate, a good starting point is 1 teaspoon of salt for every cup of raw polenta. (If you're using kosher salt, because it has a larger flake and therefore takes up more room, you'll need to add 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons per cup of raw polenta.)
Step 3: With a whisk or wooden spoon, slowly stir in 1 cup polenta. The traditional method is to hold it in your fist and let it fall into the boiling water in a steady stream as you stir. Depending on how much you're making (not to mention how big your fist is), you'll probably have to do several fistfuls.
Step 4: Continue stirring with a wooden spoon, nearly constantly, scraping the bottom of the pan to prevent it from sticking and burning. The whole process takes about 45 to 60 minutes, and the polenta is done when it's thick and wavy and it starts to pull away from the sides of the pan.