I love polenta. It makes an
excellent base/side for all kinds of dishes – ratatouille, roasted vegetables,
meats of all sorts – and it’s a whole grain, to boot.
But until recently, I rarely made polenta on a weeknight because oh, the stirring. ALL THE STIRRING. For those not used to cooking polenta, the typical method involves whisking cornmeal into hot water, then whisking/stirring fairly constantly for at least a half our while the meal soaks up the water and the mixture gets all lava-like and blurps hot steam all over and ... yeah. If you’re looking for “quick low-effort weeknight meal,” the typical method for polenta definitely doesn’t qualify.
Which is why I was so delighted to discover this alternative method in Everyday Food: Great Food Fast (my new best friend of a cookbook). Instead of stirring the polenta forever over the stove, you do it in the oven, stirring only once halfway through. Once it’s out of the oven, you whisk in a little milk to loosen it up (or, if you want, some broth or cheese to boost flavor) adjust seasoning as needed, and then- you’re done! I expect polenta will be making MUCH more regular appearances on our weeknight table going forward.
Oven-baked polenta (adapted from Great Food Fast)
1 cup dried polenta (coarse ground corn meal)
4 cups water
½ tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk all ingredients together in an oven-safe dish with a lid. Cover and bake for 30 minutes, stirring once halfway through. Remove from oven and whisk in 1/2 cup of milk and/or some shredded parmesan cheese.
Note: this recipe makes a LOT. I recommend spreading any leftover in a shallow baking dish and refrigerating overnight. The next day, slice the now-solid polenta into slabs and toast/fry in a frying pan with a little oil or butter- fried polenta cakes are incredibly delicious, and can be served sweet (maple syrup is a particularly nice accompaniment) or savory (makes a great side for pork and chicken).
(Picture from: Bobsredmill.com)