Monday, March 31, 2014

Cheesy Fried Polenta

I love grits. And polenta. Either or both. Love 'em.

I usually make soft polenta, but once in a while I let it chill, then I fry it a bit to brown it. So, when I got silicone mold from Good Cook with spring designs for their Spring Fling promotion, I thought it would be perfect for polenta - the size was just right for a batch of nice, thick squares.

Did I mention that this recipe is really cheesy? You might think I got just a tad carried away, but I don't think so. I like cheese. If you're not that much of a cheese fan, you can cut back.

I served this several different ways - as a simple side dish, and as lunch along with a chunky tomato sauce loaded with vegetables. And, I served it alongside eggs for breakfast.

Some of the designs looked better than others after browning, but no big deal there. No one's really looking for designs on their polenta, so any sort of design is a bonus.

You could also brown the bottom rather than the design side if you wanted to. The designs are easily visible without the browning.

When you're shopping for polenta to cook (as opposed to the already-cooked stuff) look for it in the baking section near the oddball grains. It might be labeled as polenta or as corn grits. You're not looking for the finer cornmeal that you'd use for cornbread.

Cheesy Fried Polenta

6 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 cups polenta
8 ounces grated mild cheddar cheese

Heat the water to boiling along with the salt. Add the polenta slowly, stirring or whisking as you go so you don't end up with lumps.

Turn down the heat so you have an energetic simmer, stirring as needed to keep it from sticking and burning, unless the polenta is very thick.

Give it a taste and see if you like the consistency. I like it fairly soft - still a teeny bit of chew, but no hard or crunchy bits. If the polenta is very thick, but you'd like to cook it longer to soften it a bit more, then add a bit more water.

When it's juuuust right, start adding the cheese a little bit at a time, stirring it in after each addition. It should all melt int the polenta.

Pour the polenta into the silicone mold. Or, if you don't have a silicone mold, you can use a baking pan or glass baking dish. Smooth the top. An small offset spatula - the type you'd use for icing a cake - works well.

Cover and refrigerate the polenta until it's firm. I usually make it the day before I need it.

When you're ready to serve, unmold the polenta and cut it into serving-sized pieces.

Heat some butter or olive oil (or a mix) in a frying pan. Brown the polenta on one side or both - whatever you like - and until the polenta is warmed through.

Serve warm.

I received the silicone pan from Good Cook at no cost to me.