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)
Oysters are a traditional delicacy enjoyed around the holidays in Virginia, so it’s a good time to think about some good fall fried oysters and hushpuppies. Both can be made with our new Hushpuppy & Batter Mix
featuring water-powered, stone-ground cornmeal. To make hushpuppies, just add egg and milk to the mix and deep-fry in hot oil until they are golden brown. You can add chopped jalapeños or whole corn kernels to the batter before frying to spice things up. The mix also works perfectly for oysters, as well as fish or shrimp. Just coat food with the mix and fry away. For a thicker batter, coat your oysters with lightly beaten egg before frying. Add a little pepper or hot sauce for more kick. With the winter holiday season approaching, your options are endless - the best fried oysters and hushpuppies make great hors-devours on Thanksgiving Day, give new life to leftovers, and are perfect for a crowd at a holiday gathering. The best part? They’ll be great all spring and summer too!
The recipe included with Woodson’s Mill All Natural Grits can really be viewed as a starting point for all that is possible when cooking with grits. Every chef has her individual take on how to prepare the best grits. Some use broth, others add milk or cream. We have found that the best way to get truly creamy grits is to use milk during the cooking process. For really creamy stone ground grits, use 3 parts milk to 1 part grits. Or, choose the middle-ground and use 1 ½ parts milk and 1 ½ parts water to 1 part grits. This foundation works whether you are cooking for breakfast, lunch, or supper.... Some of the finest dinner tables in the south serve creamy grits alongside anything and everything – not just shrimp. If you are not a grits aficionado or have had a bad experience with them, try using milk to bring out their creamy texture and find out what you have been missing. And, if you have a unique recipe for Woodson’s Mill All Natural Grits, please share it with us. In the meantime try this recipe for creamy grits by cooking your grits with milk.