When I woke up yesterday morning the wind was gusting and it was well below 70 in my apartment. I spent the morning snuggled under blankets listening to leaves blow around. Since I live in Southern Georgia, this was extremely exciting to me and a good chance to enjoy some cold weather comfort food. But it was also Saturday morning, which meant two things – I was feeling lazy, and I was pretty much out of food. Polenta to the rescue!
Polenta is basically a porridge made from corn meal; it can be set into a loaf and then fried (yum) and depending on what you add or top it with it can go savory or sweet. It’s also incredibly fast, easy, cheap, and shelf stable (uncooked) – my kind of food.
I prefer it made with milk and a pat of butter, but it works just fine with water (like, when you’re, *ahem* even out of milk. And butter. And pretty much everything except the canister of cornmeal in your cupboard…)
What you want to do is get out a small (for one serving) saucepan and pour in a cup of milk (or water). I like to add a little salt and pepper, and about a teaspoon’s worth of honey. Sometimes I’ll do cinnamon and nutmeg, and sometimes cayenne. Have your cornmeal measured out (1/3 cup) and ready to go, and a small whisk at hand. Bring this to a simmer. Once it is going, turn the burner off and gradually whisk in the cormeal. It’s important to whisk while you add, to avoid lumps. Once it’s mixed in, pour it out into a bowl while it’s still a little runnier than you want it – it sets very, very fast.
If you’re feeling savory, skip the honey and try dried chives instead. Then throw in some shredded cheddar while you whisk – voila, cheese polenta! The cheese version makes a great dinner in a pinch, to go along with whatever protein you’ve scrounged up.
I’ve honestly never gotten involved enough with it to do the loaf version – my mother used to do it regularly, though, and fry the round up in butter, then top with maple syrup. Maybe soon, yum!