Polenta 101

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When most people think of cornmeal, they think of cornbread. And while cornbread is yummy, the perfect accompaniment to chili and other hearty soups, cornmeal can be used for more than just making bread. One great way to use cornmeal is to make the classic Italian dish creamy polenta. Here is how to make it, as well as serving suggestions:

Polenta

The basic polenta recipe is best made with coarse or medium-ground cornmeal. Fine cornmeal with work, but it just doesn't have the rustic texture inherent to traditional polenta. For every desired serving, use ¼ cornmeal to one cup of water. So for example, six servings would require 1 ½ cups of cornmeal and six cups of water. You can also substitute all or some of the liquid with chicken, beef, or vegetable stock as well as milk. Don't be afraid to experiment as polenta is very forgiving, and as long as you have the proper ratio, you'll be fine.

Measure your liquid into a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add ¼ teaspoon of salt for every serving, so for six servings, 1 ½ teaspoons. Bringing to a rolling boil, and then add the 1 ½ cups of cornmeal. Whisk it constantly to remove any lumps; you want all the cornmeal to be smoothly incorporated.

Reduce your heat to a low simmer, whisking every few minutes to ensure it isn't sticking. After about five minutes, it will begin to thicken. Turn your burner as low as it will possibly go and cover the saucepan with a lid. For the next 30 minutes, stir every five minutes with a wooden spoon, making sure it isn't scorching on the bottom, and replacing the lid. At the end of 30 minutes, your cooked polenta will be creamy and tender. Add a few tablespoons of butter, and you have a dish that provides the same comfort as mashed potatoes.

Serving Suggestions

Because of its similarity in texture to mashed potatoes, polenta serves as a good base for meats. Braised beef short ribs are a perfect example as a good accompaniment. Cheese can also be added, such as Parmesan, and the polenta used as a pasta substitute in Italian dishes. Sausages simmered in a marinara on a bed of creamy, cheesy polenta is a good example. When leftover polenta cools, it becomes solidified. It can then be sliced and fried, providing another vehicle for meats and sauces.

Contact a company like Dover Corn Products LTD for more information and assistance. 

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