Tuesday, November 15, 2011

And Now for Something More Traditional (A Recipe for Creamy Oven-Baked Polenta)

It seems like corn pudding or a variation thereof is a common menu item on Thanksgiving.  Growing up in my home - not so much.  My father is allergic to corn.  Read that again.  Yes, corn.  All forms of corn.  Do you have any idea how difficult it is to be allergic to corn?  It's in EVERYTHING.   Don't believe me - read a label in your supermarket.  You're sure to find corn syrup or corn starch somewhere on the list.

Needless to say there weren't a lot of corn products on-hand or on-table when I was younger.  In the years since striking out on my own I have developed a healthy appreciation for corn meal and corn flour.  I love baked goods made with both products.  And I can't get enough polenta.  I also make quite a mean polenta; a polenta that pretty much secured my "A" on my culinary school final cooking practical.  But making delicious, creamy, luscious, lick-the-spoon polenta is a huge pain in the, ahem, arm.  All that stirring.  And waiting.  And stirring.  And waiting. And stirring... You get the picture.   Once you add a job and a child into the dinner-time mix something as time consuming and attention-stealing as polenta slowly fades from your repertoire.

Enter my savior:  oven-baked polenta.

I'm not sure where I first heard about this technique or what prompted me to try it but it is revelatory.  This method produces a swoon-worthy polenta that is rich in corn flavor, creamy in consistency and all-around delicious.  As an added bonus you can bake it right in the dish you plan on serving it from so there is one less pot to clean.  This is a perfect recipe for Thanksgiving or any time during the winter.  It makes a great accompaniment to braises and anything with a sauce.  And, I have it on good authority (OK, my own) that it's quite delicious on its own topped with some fresh ricotta cheese and toasted walnuts.

Oven Baked Creamy Polenta
Yields 6-8 servings as a side dish

  • 1 cup corn meal (coarsely ground is best)
  • 4 cups unsalted chicken or vegetable broth (you can use water but broth adds more flavor)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2-3 TBS unsalted butter
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (or more to your liking)
  • ¼-½ cup toasted walnuts (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 375˚F.
  2. Grease a 9"x13" baking dish and set aside.
  3. Combine the cornmeal, broth and salt and pepper and pour into the prepared baking dish.
  4. Bake for 45 minutes.
  5. Remove from oven, stir to mix thoroughly, dot the top of the polenta with butter and return to the oven for an additional 10 minutes.
  6. Remove from the oven and stir in the Parmesan cheese.  Taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking.  Top with toasted walnuts if using.  Serve immediately.

1 comment:

Jenna at Rosaberry said...

Looks wonderful! I have never made polenta in the oven, but will try it asap. I love polenta topped with sauteed bitter greens and a fried egg.