Polenta is one of those foodie things that I’m supposed to be in love with. The creamy Italian corn dish is cheap, versatile, and wholesome. Except in my mind, polenta was just a fancy word for “cornmeal mush,” a log of, you guessed it, cornmeal mush. My dad and brother would fry up slices on Saturday mornings, always trying to lure the rest of the family to the table with the accompanying maple syrup. No doing. It came out of a tube and contained the word “mush.”
I started to see polenta at restaurants all over town. I even had it once or twice, served as an afterthought with salmon or chicken. But I’d never actually made any. Again and again, I tagged polenta recipes on Serious Eats, but it wasn’t until I was home with a cold that I decided, why not polenta?
I had a bag of cornmeal (leftover from pizza making), and dutifully followed Martha Rose’s oven technique. I’d always thought polenta was like risotto—lots and lots of stirring. But I just added four cups of water to one cup cornmeal, dashed in some salt, stuck the whole pan in the oven, and came back 45 minutes later. I tucked a little butter in, then let it bake for 10 more minutes (with the oven off, just to save a bit of energy). I swirled in a handful of grated gruyere at the very end.
Easy breezy! I topped a bowl with a handful of sauteed mushrooms and parsley:
And for lunch the next day, artichoke hearts and tomato sauce:
I’m in love. It’s like finding a whole new food group: first there was bread, then pasta, rice, all manner of quinoa and millet and oatmeal. And now, polenta!