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Creamy Parmesan Polenta

March 18, 2010

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I actually made this polenta back in, I think, August.  Back when they had heirloom tomatoes at the farmer’s market and it was warm outside and I was wearing skirts and dresses.  God, I can’t wait for summer! 

If you are a subscriber to Cook’s Illustrated, then you might notice that this recipe is from the January/February edition and you may be wondering how exactly I made this exact recipe back in August.  Well, that would be because I signed up to be a recipe tester.  I tested out 2 recipes, and then I realized that testing the recipes takes most of the fun out of getting the magazine.  I love opening each issue, exploring the exhaustive narratives accompanying each recipe and trying to decide what to make first. It’s considerably less fun when you’re like “Yeah, I tried that one…. That looks uninteresting….. Jeez, I made that one too!”

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I thought this polenta was good, but it wasn’t earth-shattering.  I’m still partial to my polenta with 4 oz of goat cheese (which is a LOT, fyi) stirred in.  The topping was really good, though, and I loved the flavor of the roasted tomatoes.  I’m sure I’ll be making polenta with tomatoes and cheese again this coming August, when I’ve bought more tomatoes than I know what to do with and I’m out of ideas… I can’t wait!! (Seriously, I can’t.  You have no idea how excited I am to be able to buy produce again at the farmer’s market!)

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Creamy Parmesan Polenta

(Courtesy of Cook’s Illustrated)

7 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
Pinch baking soda
1 1/2 cups coarse-ground cornmeal
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about 2 cups), plus extra for serving
Ground black pepper

1. Bring water to boil in heavy-bottomed 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in salt and baking soda. Slowly pour cornmeal into water in steady stream, while stirring back and forth with wooden spoon or rubber spatula. Bring mixture to boil, stirring constantly, about 1 minute. Reduce heat to lowest possible setting and cover.

2. After 5 minutes, stir polenta to smooth out any lumps that may have formed, about 15 seconds. Cover and continue to cook, without stirring, until grains of polenta are tender but slightly al dente, about 25 minutes longer. (Polenta should be loose and barely hold its shape but will continue to thicken as it cools.)

3. Remove from heat and stir in butter and Parmesan. Let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Serve, passing Parmesan and black pepper separately.

Roasted Tomatoes and Fresh Mozzarella Topping for Polenta

I used fresh tomatoes, and I think I only made half or a quarter of the recipe.  It was a long time ago.  I don’t really remember.

3 (14 ½-ounce) cans diced tomatoes, drained well in a colander and squeezed by hand to remove remaining juices
1 ½ teaspoons light brown sugar
Table salt
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
3 medium scallions, sliced thin on the bias
8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1⁄2-inch dice
Ground black pepper

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 475 degrees. Line rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Combine tomatoes, brown sugar, 1⁄4 teaspoon salt, and oil in medium bowl. Spread tomato mixture in single layer across foil-lined pan. Roast until tomatoes begin to darken and are reduced significantly in size, 22 to 25 minutes. Using large rubber spatula, scrape tomatoes off pan into medium bowl; toss with scallions and cheese until combined. (The cheese will soften but probably won’t melt.) Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve over polenta

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