While not a traditional southern recipe, polenta has worked its way into our dining vocabulary for good reason. Like grits, it is the traditional “peasant” food of Europe. At Woodson's Mill, we get a lot of questions about polenta: what is it, anyway, and can it be made with Woodson's Mill products? The answer is, "Yes!" But, contrary to popular belief, polenta is not just hard yellow grits (more on that later…)
Polenta is really a catch all term referring to this traditional porridge-type dish Americans frequently associate with Italy. Historically, polenta was made from a variety of grains including semolina wheat. But, today, it is most commonly made with yellow corn.
So, if you want to make a great water-powered, stone-ground polenta for a taste of Italy via Virginia, use Woodson’s Mill Yellow or White Cornmeal instead of grits. You can make it with milk or cream instead of broth and add all sorts of flavoring – herbs, sun-dried tomatoes, cheese, mushrooms, peppers, etc. Serve it with fish, chicken, or vegetables the same way you would grits. Or let it cool, cut it into squares and reheat it on the grill or in a pan.
Recipe for Stone-Ground Polenta
4-1/2 cups of chicken stock
1-1/2 cups of Woodson’s Mill Cornmeal
¼ cup grated Parmesan Cheese
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
Salt and Pepper to taste
Bring the stock to a simmer and add the cornmeal very slowly, stirring constantly with a wisk. Cook, stirring frequently, for 15 minutes or until quite thick.
Season with salt, pepper, and butter. You can also add herbs (parsley, sage), grilled onions and peppers, or cheese to your liking. Serve hot.
Another option is to let the polenta cool to at least room temperature, then cut into thick slices, bush with butter, and grill or broil until lightly seared on both sides.
Any way you cook, you will end up with stone-ground polenta with that smooth, creamy texture that is indicative of this Italian dish. Enjoy!
(Photograph: try it with local lamb and wild asparagus)