52 Weeks of Cooking: Fixing Polenta
My polenta problems began in the late 90s I spent a number of years as a vegetarian. When you start a vegetarian diet you get clued in to a number of new foods to eat. New staples include tofu, tempeh and beans. Whole grains come center stage, and side dishes become stars. Polenta was supposed to be an easy versatile dish that you could dress up or dress down depending on what was in season. You could serve it under a hearty stew in the winter. In the summer, slice it up and grill. Polenta can be decadent and cheesy, flecked with herbs, studded with vegetables, or it can simply showcase the flavor of the corn.
Polenta is/was confusing
Is it Polenta, Grits or just plain old Cornmeal? Polenta can be found in fancy Italian restaurants, import shops and health food stores. Grits are found in homestyle restaurants, popular in the south, and in the breakfast aisle. Cornmeal populates the baking aisle, ready to be made into crunchy cornmeal coating or cornbread.
But really it’s simple. It’s all the same thing ,dried and ground corn. The coarseness of the grain varies depending on the use. Coarser ground usually used as a side dish ala polenta or grits, finer ground cornmeal is used for breads and coatings.
It’s not that you can’t make a side out of the finer stuff, the texture is just a bit different and it lumps up quicker.
Polenta’s not hard, is it?
So why am I trying again? I’ve always had a hard time getting it just right. I’ve overcooked it, under cooked it, dried it out, left it too mushy and over salted it.
I’m a more mature cook, I do things differently now. Armed with fancy tools of the modern era I was sure that I could tame this beast.
I started with a recipe from Hip Pressure Cooking. Cutting the recipe in half, I fired up the instant pot and salted water.
Once the salt had melted into the water I stirred in the cornmeal. What I had at home was a mix of medium and coarse ground cornmeal, a byproduct of combining bulk goods in my pantry. 4 cups water, 1 cup polenta, and 1 tbs salt. (If you read the recipe she suggests 2tsp of salt for 2 cups polenta and 8 cups of water. ) I opted to add more salt out of fear of it being under seasoned.
Cooked on high pressure for 10 minutes, then I did a quick release.
Poured into a bowl, it looked perfect.
I dished out 1/4 of it into a different bowl and spooned my dinner over it.
The verdict? It was too salty. I’d over did it when I added extra salt to the water. The texture was great, the flavor was meh. Luckily enough, the shashuka I made for dinner worked perfectly with it. While the tomato sauce for the shashuka wasn’t under seasoned, the poached eggs in the tomato sauce paired perfectly.
Want to know more about the shashuka? Ask me next week.
Are you on Weight Watchers? Cooked grits run 4 SP per cup. Not bad for a side.
What is 52 Weeks of Cooking?
I’m hopping on a cooking challenge on Reddit, called 52 Weeks of cooking. There are different themes every week. This week was “fixing a past mistake.” Next week, it’s going to be rice. Join me for the adventure?
What I used:
Want to learn more:
Source: Almost Dinner