- Course: Appetizer, Side Dish
- Skill Level: Moderate
- Cost: Inexpensive
- Favorited: 23 Times
- 4 cups water (½ milk, ½ water could be used for a richer taste)
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon coarse salt
- 1½ cups coarse yellow cornmeal
In a medium cast-iron saucepan or other heavy pot, bring all ingredients except the cornmeal to simmer over medium heat.
Very slowly, begin to sift the cornmeal into the pan through the fingers of one hand, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or whisk. (This operation will be greatly facilitated if the meal is scooped by the handful from a wide bowl.)
Gradually sift all the meal into the pan, continue to stir, and reduce the heat to medium low. Continue to stir constantly until the polenta is smooth and thick and pulls away from the sides of the pan as it is stirred, about 30 minutes.
Discard the bay leaf, pour the polenta into a serving bowl or onto a wooden board, and allow it to rest 10 minutes. To serve from the bowl, dip a large spoon into hot water and scoop the polenta onto individual dishes, dipping the spoon into the water between scoops. To serve from the board, cut the polenta into segments with a thin, taut string or a knife and transfer to plates with a spatula or cake server.
Spread the desired amount of hot cooked polenta in a lightly greased pan, in a layer about ¼” thick, and smooth with a rubber spatula dipped in cold water. Refrigerate the polenta until firmly set, then turn it out of the pan and cut it into squares, rectangles, triangles, etc.
In a large skillet, over low heat, melt enough unsalted butter to lightly grease the surface of the pan. Arrange the polenta pieces in the skillet, leaving space between them, increase the heat to medium, and fry about 10 minutes, turning the polenta once, until lightly browned on both sides.
Lightly brush the polenta slices with olive oil and set them on a hot grill. Grill 4–5 minutes on each side.
© 1990 Lidia Bastianich and Jay Jacobs
Nutritional information is based on using water.