Simple Creamy Goodness!

This time of year my body calls for steaming porridges and bubbling casseroles and while many grains like oats, buckwheat, and rice can be perfect, no grain has more more versatility and comfort than Corn.

Traditionally polenta(italian word) and grits(southern, US) both refer to cornmeal cooked with water into a creamy porridge that gels into a solid after cooling.

This can then be stored in the fridge for a week or more and either be sliced into “polenta cakes” and fried, steamed or baked, or water can be added to return it to a porridge consistency for reheating.

A quick steamy breakfast with maple syrup on top, cheesy grits for lunch, or a slow cooked polenta casserole for the family are all within a short arm’s reach once the simple task of cooking the cornmeal is perfected.

While this is a very easy and relatively simple task here are some key pointers to getting the most out and having the littlest trouble and work for it.

  1. Use a heavy bottomed wide pot with a lid. This is essential so as not to scorch the bottom of the grits and eliminate the need for stirring once it’s at a simmer.

  2. Use 3 parts water to 1 part corn meal and these must be combined before you heat the water otherwise you will get awful clumpy grits.

  3. Once at a simmer, stir, cover and set to medium low heat. For 30 minutes.

If you follow these keys you’ll always get perfect polenta, no scorching, no clumping, and very little work. I like to add a 1/2 tsp of salt per cup cornmeal and often make two cups worth to have in the fridge for the week.

The Nothstine dent corn is so flavorful I like to keep the seasoning very simple and that way I can turn it into various dishes throughout the week.

This delicious porridge can be served under a piece of fish surrounded by a mushroom broth, topped with cheese and broiled to a bubbling perfection, or made into a casserole with seasonal vegetables and ricotta or made into a quick but satisfying breakfast with some maple syrup and a handful of toasted nuts and or some fruit.

One of the things that is so exceptional about this porridge is it’s compatibility with so many flavors and dishes. It can simply be served as a delicious side with almost any meal as it adds a creamy and luxurious counterpoint.

A note on grinding: I personally prefer a fine grind which yields a smoother result. Some folks like to extra chew of some coarser bran. If you find your grind is on the coarse side you can always regrind or sift a little bran out with a mesh kitchen strainer.

Use polenta(or grits…whichever you prefer to call it) in place of mashed potatoes, risotto, rice or pasta. It works especially well with flavors like mushroom, tomato, seafood, squash, cheese, beef, garlic, kale, cauliflower and white beans(yellow eye especially!) but be creative and try new things as you almost can’t go wrong!!