Throw out all your polenta recipes and just follow Bill Buford's instructions in Heat. Really. What he learned about polenta at Babbo is the real deal (and it's a darn funny read). Polenta takes more liquid than any recipe out there says (I hope Marcella Hazan doesn't read food blogs!) and it really is better the longer you cook it. Oh, and by the way, even though Mario recommends instant polenta (gag) in his cookbooks, he never uses it in his restaurants! Thanks a lot, Mario!
So for good polenta, you want to use the coarse kind. It's very easy to find now. You need a good heavy pot, a whisk and a spatula. The amount of liquid doesn't matter, because you are going to keep adding it until the polenta doesn't take any more (remember my pizza dough post?).
- start out with about 6 cups water
- 1.5 cups polenta
- 1 Tablespoon kosher salt
- 3 Tablespoons butter (yes, butter - are you really still eating margarine?)
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Bring the water to a simmer. Slowly add the polenta in a steady stream into the pot and whisk as you add it. Whisk for a couple of minutes and then let the polenta do its thing. Keep it at a low simmer. It may pop out at you, so be aware. Switch to your rubber spatula and give the polenta a good stir every now and then. When it absorbs all the water, add more water. And more. And keep stirring. And add more water. After about an hour, the polenta will be done. The granules will have become creamy and soft. Take it off the heat, add the butter and parmesan. You can serve it at this point with grilled meat or even put a nice bolognese sauce over it. That makes a great meal.
I took mine and poured it into an 8x8 baking dish. I chilled it for several hours in the fridge, cut into circles with a biscuit cutter and grilled it. I did add chopped fresh basil on top and more parmesan cheese.
Tip: If you want a richer flavor, you can also add some chicken stock instead of some of the water.
Tip: If you are grilling it, take the pan out of the fridge a good hour beforehand and cut the polenta into the shapes you want and then let them come to room temp. Putting this recipe in an 8x8 pan makes very thick polenta servings and grilling them will not heat them all the way through.
Final Tip: Don't even bother to wash the pot. Fill it with soap and water and let it sit for a couple of hours. Then the polenta on the bottom comes right out.
Polenta used: Bob's Red Mill Coarse Grind Polenta