It seems I haven’t really talked about polenta on the blog. I guess it must have escaped my radar.
Cornmeal products make an appearance in lots of cultures. In the U.S. southern states, it’s about grits. In all Spanish cultures, there are cornmeal staples taking several forms, like: tortillas, arepas, and gorditas. African, Asian, and Caribbean people all have staple foods with cornmeal.
For Italians, cornmeal takes the form of polenta. But in Italy, polenta was always peasant food, so we were shocked when it started appearing on menus of very upscale restaurants. My grandmother would make polenta to use up little bits of leftovers, meat and vegetable. Then she’d serve it with red sauce on top. Leftover polenta was always spread into a greased form, so it could be sliced and fried the next day. Sort of leftovers, of leftovers!
Polenta is extremely versatile, and generally anything you can dream up to do with pasta, you can usually do with polenta. The traditional way to prepare polenta is with salt and water. Of course, that’s not how I did this recipe. I used stock, well, really the leftover juices of baked chicken, including a little of the fat, because I happened to have it in the fridge.
Polenta cornmeal is fairly easy to find now. Several food companies sell it, and you can find it in bulk in natural food sections. I use a coarse grind, and my last bag was from Goya. It was only labeled as coarse yellow Corn Meal, but the recipes on the back were for polenta.
The picture is of leftover polenta that I sliced, dusted with (brown rice) flour, and fried in butter. It’s great plain, with salsa or pesto, or two slices stacked with a filling.