Polenta is a staple in some parts of Italy. It is very similar to American grits. Traditional Italian polenta starts with water, salt and coarsely ground cornmeal and is often finished with a little bit of butter, some Parmesan cheese, and some cream. There are numerous versions of polenta. They vary from town to town or region to region as to how simple or complex the finished dish is.
Whether in America or in Italy, polenta (grits) can be completely unseasoned bowls of porridge or exquisitely intricate with additions of garlic, cheese, cooked sausage, shrimp, or seasoned meat. Some of the best grits I’ve ever had were at at breakfast buffet in Arkansas; where they added American cheese and garlic powder. Sounds plebeian but they are “to die for”.
The traditional slow cook version of polenta takes about 45 minutes to cook; but “instant” quick cook versions are available and they take only 5 minutes to cook. The slow cook version has a better texture; smoother and creamy on your tongue. In a pinch, you can use the “quick cook”.
In this version, we used milk to give it a creamy dairy flavor without being too rich and did not add cream or butter at the end to keep the fat content down. The addition of the herbs, although not traditional, enhances the flavor and gives an interesting eye appeal since the polenta is pretty much colorless on their own. Polenta and cheese are a marriage made in heaven. You can use any cheese that melts well: Gouda; Gorgonzola or any blue cheese; cheddar; Gruyère; or one of the hard cheeses like Parmesan Reggiano, Grana Padana, or Romano etc.
Polenta can be served soft (immediately) or allowed to set in a loaf pan or a pie dish and then cut. Try putting it into a muffin tin to create individual portions. The individual portions can be fried, grilled, or broiled.
- 1 Tbsp grape seed oil
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 2 Tbsp green onion, minced (green parts only)
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 1 Tbsp finely chopped parsley
- 1 Tbsp white onion, finely minced
- 4 cups milk
- 1 cup yellow corn polenta (not quick cook)
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ cup Comté cheese (or Parmesan Reggiano, blue cheese, Gruyère, etc.)
Heat sauce pan over medium heat. Add oil and butter. When the butter stops foaming, add the garlic and cook until the garlic has a light color. Add onion and cook until translucent. Add green onion and give it a quick toss. Add parsley and give it another quick toss. Add the milk and bring to a scald (just before it boils, do not boil) then add the polenta. Bring to a boil, and turn the heat down to low. Stirring occasionally, simmer for approximately 30 minutes until the polenta is thick and creamy. Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese.