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1¾ hours 10 minutes active
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Polenta, a savory cornmeal porridge, can be a disappointment in the U.S., tasting mostly of the cheese and fat that weigh it down. Not to mention it requires near-constant whisking to get a lump-free consistency. But in Cossano Belbo, Italy, we learned a better way from Maria Teresa Marino, whose family has run a grain mill for centuries: No cheese, no butter, not much stirring. The porridge was light and fresh and the taste of the corn shined through. We followed that lead, using more water than called for in conventional recipes—11 cups. Combining the cornmeal with cold, not boiling, water, then bringing the entire pot to a simmer, prevented clumping. We finished cooking the polenta in the oven rather than the stovetop, which gave us for more consistent, gentle heat. For the best flavor and texture, use coarse stone-ground cornmeal; fine cornmeal produced pasty, gluey polenta, while steel-ground cornmeal had less flavor. We liked Bob’s Red Mill coarse-grind cornmeal and its polenta corn grits, but found that different brands can cook up with slightly different consistencies. The finished polenta should be pourable; if it’s too thick, thin it with water as needed. It’s good on its own or as a side to braised meats.
Don't use white cornmeal. Its flavor is milder and than yellow cornmeal. In Italy, it is used mostly for sweet preparations. And don't skip the whisk for stirring the polenta as it cooks; its wires are more effective than a wooden spoon for breaking up lumps.
10 minutes active
cups coarse stoneground yellow cornmeal (see note)
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
01Heat the oven to 375°F with a rack in the lower-middle position. In a large Dutch oven, whisk together the cornmeal, 1½ teaspoons salt and 11 cups water. Bring to a gentle simmer over medium-high, stirring frequently to prevent clumping. Transfer the pot, uncovered, to the oven and bake for 1 hour.
02Remove the pot from the oven. Carefully whisk until smooth and use a wooden spoon to scrape along the bottom and into corners of the pot. Return, uncovered, to the oven and cook until the cornmeal is thick and creamy and the granules are tender, another 10 to 30 minutes, depending on the cornmeal used.
03Remove the pot from the oven. Vigorously whisk the polenta until smooth and use the wooden spoon to scrape the bottom, sides and corners of the pot. Let stand for 5 minutes. The polenta should thicken just enough for a spoon to leave a brief trail when dragged through; whisk in additional water if needed to adjust the consistency. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.
The recipe is great. Mine benefited from an extra ten minutes of cooling, perhaps because of my oven. Do you think you can get some actual Italian polenta in stock at your store? Stone ground American cornmeal is good, but I don't think it quite matches the flavor and texture of Italian polenta. My fancy supermarket in the Northeast of the US, did not have any boxes or bags of uncooked polenta in stock.
This polenta was delicious! But the spicy tomato cause was out of this world!!!