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)
- Preheat the oven to 375˚F.
- Grease a 9"x13" baking dish and set aside.
- Combine the cornmeal, broth and salt and pepper and pour into the prepared baking dish.
- Bake for 45 minutes.
- 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.
- 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.