I’ve never had polenta before. Or so I’d always thought. As it turns out, they’re just grits, people! Yes, I’m the last person to discover this. BUT…surely we’re not the last people to turn what is, essentially, grits, into oven-baked “fries”. Sis Blogging Partner came across this recipe and it sounded like a good way to try out polenta. While she’s been a long-time fan of it, I’ve just been happily scarfing down grits like any good Southern gal does and not realizing I was just a few steps away from, what has been in the past, a very trendy food. I remember seeing it all the heck over the place before and now that I’ve finally partaken of the yellow gritty stuff, I shall proclaim it… something at the end of the post!
In actuality, polenta is really pretty much yellow cornmeal, aka, grits, as Bob’s Red Mill brand plainly tells us on their packaging. Thanks, Bob! And you’re little red mill, too. So, like toMAYto/toMAHto, you say grits/I say polenta. Let’s move on.
And here’s a picture of yellow grits or POLENTA being poured like a majestic waterfall of yum into a bowl. Okay, NOW we’re moving on. (Well, before we do, according to some online research, there is a slight difference in the two, but it’s, again, slight.)
This is the first warning of this post (actually, not sure if there are any others, just..let’s go with it): don’t be fooled by that creamy, calm bunch of polenta above – polenta spits while cooking. A lot. Like really bad. I was warned by Sis Blogging partner that polenta spits worse than regular white grits. She was right and I just didn’t believe her, I guess. I mean, when you’ve been warned and you still shout OH MY GAWD as it begins to spit higher and more viciously than a homemade science project volcano…maybe you didn’t listen too well? That was me. Like grits, you have to whisk the polenta into boiling water. As you get to the last bit of polenta to throw in, and the mixture is thickening in your pot, it will spit and hiss and bubble like some mad demon goopy goop. Whisk, people! Whisk for your LIFE. It gets a little better after you’ve added the milk, but not much. Our advice: cover the pot with the lid slightly off and just make sure to go back and stir frequently. This way you at least avoid some of the spitting action.
Good luck to you. *salute*
After you’ve stirred in some cheese, then some more cheese, cuz – reasons, and seasoned with salt and pepper to taste, just spread it all out onto a baking sheet pan with about half-inch tall sides or so. We actually doubled the recipe because the smallest sheet pan I had was still a lot bigger than the recipe called for, and any casserole dishes I had weren’t the right size either. My non-stick pans aren’t the non-stickiest around anymore, so we did spray it with some Pam just to be sure.
The polenta will chill in the fridge for about an hour. Or maybe an hour and a half. I guess we thought the point was to completely chill the polenta, however ours was still a little warm to the touch after an hour and a half. We went ahead and cut the polenta into fries, and the stuff held together very well for the most part. It was clear at this point that you need more time to make this recipe than we originally anticipated.
We tried this recipe with both fresh shredded cheese and pre-grated Parmesan cheese (the more powdery-textured stuff), and the verdict is that the fresh-grated cheese is way better from a flavor standpoint. Way way. So way. I even grated some extra, and I didn’t really want to, you know? Sometimes you’re at the end of your cheese-grating rope. But then you grate more because – way better.
When they’re done, the outsides are slightly crisp, and so is that awesome cheese. Let ‘em cool slightly before serving, but they’re good still a little warm, too.
These were a really interesting, new type of “fries” for us. The texture is pretty much exactly like grits, but they hold their shape and are perfect for dipping. Dip them in marinara, ranch or even your own homemade garlic aioli sauce (see notes below). These would make a great snack or go alongside burgers or other sandwiches as well as their fried potato ancestors. The work was a little more time-involved than we expected, but not hard at all, especially given how good the results were. Therefore we proclaim them – pretty darn good!
Baked Parmesan Polenta Fries
Adapted slightly from FoodRecipesHQ.com
Prep Time: 5 minutes Cook Time: about 40 minutes Chill Time: about 1 hour Level: Easy Makes: a lot of polenta fries
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup milk (we used 2% milk)
- 1 1/2 cups polenta or yellow cornmeal
- 3/4 cup fresh-grated Parmesan
- 3 Tbsp. olive oil (plus more the grease the baking sheet)
- Salt and pepper to taste
Boil water in a large saucepan. Gradually add polenta, stirring constantly with a whisk (be careful as the polenta might hiss and spit, bursting up from the pan as it bubbles). Add the milk. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils, about 8-10 minutes.
Turn the heat off. Stir in 1/2 cup Parmesan and season with oil, then salt and pepper to taste. Spread polenta evenly onto a 8 1/2 × 12-inch baking sheet (or whichever size you have that works). Press plastic wrap onto surface; chill in the fridge at least 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 400°.
Uncover polenta and cut into 4 × 1/4-inch strips. Separate fries and arrange on a greased baking sheet (You can use the extra olive oil or cooking spray). Sprinkle with more fresh-grated Parmesan.
Bake fries about 25–30 minutes, until slightly deeper golden yellow in color. Cool 10-15 minutes. Serve with dips such as marina, Ranch dressing or whatever suits you.
Like the seasonings, you might want to have more Parmesan on hand in case you prefer more. We ended up adding more until we could just slightly taste it amongst the stronger flavor of the polenta.
When we added the polenta to the pot, and it began bubbling up like an erupting volcano, Sis Blogging Partner did put the lid on for brief intervals between all the stirring, the keep spattering to a minimum. It took about 7-8 minutes for our polenta to cook. It gets exceptionally thick and a little difficult to stir, like a very thick dough batter.
We ended up doubling the recipe since we had (just about) enough ingredients and since our sheet pan was bigger. This made plenty for, say, a family of four or so.
To make a garlic aioli sauce: mix a couple tablespoons of mayonnaise with a couple tablespoons of sour cream. Mince two good-sized garlic cloves very fine, then make a paste by pressing them with the flat of your blade till the juices and oils release; add to the mayo/sour cream mixture. Add about two or so teaspoons of fresh-squeezed lemon juice (to taste) and then season with a little salt and pepper (again, to taste).