Friday, September 20, 2013
Creamy Parmesan Polenta
For the ultimate creamy texture and deep corn flavor, traditional polenta requires lengthy cooking and lots of stirring. Could we keep the creaminess but shortcut the process?
Serves 4 as a main course with a topping or 6 to 8 as a side dish
Coarse-ground degerminated cornmeal such as yellow grits (with grains the size of couscous) works best in this recipe. Avoid instant and quick-cooking products, as well as whole-grain, stone-ground, and regular cornmeal. Do not omit the baking soda—it reduces the cooking time and makes for a creamier polenta. The polenta should do little more than release wisps of steam. If it bubbles or sputters even slightly after the first 10 minutes, the heat is too high and you may need a flame tamer, available at most kitchen supply stores. Alternatively, fashion your own from a ring of foil (see Homemade Flame Tamer step by step below). For a main course, serve the polenta with a topping (see related recipes) or with a wedge of rich cheese or a meat sauce. Served plain, the polenta makes a great accompaniment to stews and braises.
7 1/2cups water
1 1/2teaspoons table salt
Pinch baking soda (see note)
1 1/2cups coarse-ground cornmeal (see note)
2tablespoons unsalted butter
4ounces good-quality 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, whisk polenta to smooth out any lumps that may have formed, about 15 seconds. (Make sure to scrape down sides and bottom of pan.) 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, stir in butter and Parmesan, and season to taste with black pepper. Let stand, covered, 5 minutes. Serve, passing Parmesan separately.