Make Something New Every Day

This blog is inspired by all those who love to cook, whether experienced or not, and who continue to experiment with new ideas & ingredients, and best of all, share their passion with others.

The first entries are recipes prepared by the students of Lionel Wilson College Preparatory Academy in Oakland, CA. Fifteen students with varying cooking experience participated in my weekly workshop (via Tutorpedia), and successfully prepared various meals, snacks, and baked goods as part of an after-school program.

Along with the recipes from that class, I will continue to add new seasonal items, spanning every genre of the culinary world, as well as a helpful list of links to recipes, instructional videos, and places to shop and volunteer in your area.

Feel free to ask me questions and share your recipes and ideas as well. I look forward to cooking with you.

May 7, 2014

Easy Perfect Polenta

Looks good, doesn't it? It is.
Read on to see how easy it is to make!

That does look good, but polenta is one of those things you break your arm stirring for hours, right? Nope. 

It's true. Cooking polenta takes about 30 minutes total. But with a couple tricks provided by my culinary heroes of making difficult easy (while amping up the delicious) - America's Test Kitchen - we can make creamy, luscious polenta with very little stirring.

3 & 3/4C water
3/4C polenta (Bob's Red Mill works great!)
pinch of baking soda
1/2t kosher salt

2T butter
1/3C grated Parmigiano Reggiano 

Bring the water to a boil in a heavy-bottomed 4Qt pot. Keep the lid on so the water doesn't evaporate. 
Once the water is boiling, add a pinch of baking soda, and the 1/2t kosher salt. The baking soda will help break down the large grains of corn, and save you a lot of stirring. 
While whisking the water back & forth, sprinkle in the polenta. If it foams up, whisk quickly, and if needed, turn off the flame. Stir down the raging boil, then turn down your burner to the lowest setting possible, cover, and let sit for 5 minutes. If you have a "simmer" burner on your stove, transfer the pot to it, and use the lowest possible flame. 
Some newer gas ranges feature a "simmer" burner, which is ideal for cooking polenta. 

The lowest possible flame I could get out of my simmer burner before it goes out. Make sure there is no draft in your kitchen, or the flame could go out, and your kitchen could fill with gas. Although you don't have to stir the whole time, keep an eye on the flame. 
After 5 minutes, remove the lid and stir the polenta. It should be starting to absorb most of the water. Stir it well, replace the cover, and cook for 20 more minutes. If you can't get your flame as low as you'd like, check the pot after 10 or 15 minutes. You can stir as often as needed to keep the bottom from scorching, but ideally, you won't have to. 

After 25 minutes total cooking time, your polenta might look done. Give it a good stir, and check two things: 

  • Give it a taste. If you're biting down on chewy pieces of cornmeal, it needs to cook for another 5 minutes. 
  • Also, stir it, and see how the polenta falls off the whisk. If it runs right off, it needs another 5 minutes. 

Cooked polenta should be velvety-smooth in your mouth, but still hold up a bit on the whisk. (See the photo below)

Some of the polenta stays in the whisk, and the part that falls
sits on top rather than sinking in. It's done!
Perfectly cooked polenta is soft and flowing, but doesn't run off the whisk.
When spooned into a bowl, it will settle a bit, but maintain a soft mound. 
Congratulations! You made perfect polenta. Now, finish it with the butter, Parmesan, and pepper (or omit the butter & cheese if you are vegan). If you think it needs more salt, I suggest you sprinkle a little on each serving, rather than stir more into the whole batch. If you're planning on saving the rest for the next day, you'll be glad. Salt can taste more concentrated once a dish has cooled. I also add other things to my leftovers (like Tapatillo!), and prefer to control the salt then. 

Bonus! You can have soft polenta with just about any accompaniment for dinner, then save the rest for next level action the next day (or two). 
Soft polenta poured into a lightly oiled dish sets firmly when chilled. This 8" dish will yield 4 generous wedges of polenta that you can sear, creating an irresistible crust

To fry leftover polenta, cut a slice out of your chilled pan. Gently pat it dry on a paper towel. Water will spatter when it touches a hot pan, so you want to avoid that.

Heat a nonstick pan to high. Add 2T olive oil. Once the oil is heated, gently lay in the polenta, and don't move it for at least 5 minutes. If you have a spatter screen, you'll want to use it. Once one side is nicely golden, use a thin spatula to shimmy under the polenta and give it a quick flip. Ideally, flip it to a spot on the pan that has some oil. Again, don't move it for about 5 minutes. That way you'll get that lovely crust. 

The magic? The center will be as soft and velvety as fresh polenta. Eat it as is, or top with a fried add and a dash of Tapatillo. Add some veggies if you like, and enjoy! 

A Great Kitchen Tool

The inexpensive and indispensable Microplane!
In this recipe I used it to quickly and finely grate the Parmesan.
You'll find it works great on hard cheese, citrus zest, ginger, garlic, and more.
Be careful. The blades are razor sharp. They now come with rubber handles for easier gripping. 

No comments:

Post a Comment