Thursday, December 07, 2006

Hands-Free Polenta

I come from New England, Boston to be exact. There are a number of specifically New England foods that I love, and sometimes, I make them. Like any beloved heirloom recipe, most New England recipes are time intensive, especially Indian pudding. I just love it - its a sort of sweet cornmeal mush which has been baked for hours with milk and spices and is served hot, in a soup bowl, topped with sweetened whipped cream or creamy vanilla ice cream. I used to always get it at Durgin Park, a famous Boston restaurant, and a number of years ago, I pined for it so much that I found a recipe. I baked it all night long and it was delicious, but it took forever. So, I experimented with cooking it in a crockpot - it came out fabulous! So, for Thanksgiving breakfast, for many years, I had Indian pudding from the crockpot.

Fast forward to yesterday when I had a hankering for polenta, but I just don't have it in me to stir it for 45 minutes on the stove (I'm fighting a bad chest cold/walking pneumonia). My mouth was set for it, but I just didn't think I could do it. Last night, I was thinking about polenta some more, and it hit me --- try it in the crockpot! Well, I did it today, and it is cooling in a 9x13 nonstick pan right now. It tastes delicious. I don't think I'll ever stir polenta again - this is my new favorite way of cooking polenta.

Crockpot Polenta

6 C boiling water
2 C cornmeal
2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cayenne
2 Tbs butter/margerine
olive oil for greasing the crockpot (I use my handy-dandy oil mister)

Bring water to a boil. Grease bottom and sides of crockpot and turn it to high. Place butter/margerine in crockpot to melt. When melted, stir in the salt and pepper and any other seasonings you are using, then dump in the cornmeal. Using a wire wisk, wisk the cornmeal while pouring in the boiling water. Keep wisking for a minute or two to dissolve all the lumps. Cover and cook on high 2 - 3 hours., stirring once with the wisk halfway through, and again at the end of cooking time. Turn out into a greased baking pan to cool.

I flavored my polenta with 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 tsp dried onion flakes, about a small handful of dried mushrooms - broken up, about 1/4 C of julienned sundried tomatoes, and 1 heaping tsp of herbes de provence. If it wasn't Lent, I would have stirred in a cup of shredded cheese as well.

This makes a lot of polenta - enough for about 8 people - but it freezes well, so I will freeze the rest for a quick meal on a work night. It has a very pretty, rosy cast to it from the tomatoes.

Trust me on this, it tastes yummy! I'm going to serve it with some leftover roasted garlic tomato sauce and some broccoli sauteed in olive oil and garlic. It would be really tasty with a ton of parmesan over all, but alas, it is Lent, so that will have to wait.


Mimi said...

I LOVE polenta so much, and my Dh (d does not stand for Dear in this case) can't stand it. I always order it when we are out, but this looks so yummy.

Anonymous said...

I have the same problem Mimi. I also love polenta but unfortunatly only get to have it when we are ordering separate meals.