This is one of the elements that helped secure a win for Team Guy on the first episode. I love polenta, it’s so adaptable and easy to work with. It’s a great starch for any meal (and so is my mac & cheese!). Pork, beef, chicken it plays nice with everyone – it’s great with seafood too. Butter poached lobster over a citrus polenta….ah, yum.
- 1 ¼ cups cornmeal
- 3 ½ cups milk
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp white pepper
- 1 or 2 roasted jalapeños.
From your 3 ½ cups of milk, place 1 cup of the milk in a bowl, then add corn meal and salt.
While your cornmeal is soaking, place a jalapeño on a skewer or fork. Roast the jalapeño right over the gas flame until it blackens and the skin bubbles. If you do not have a gas range, place peppers on a small baking sheet and put under a very hot broiler. Put your oven rack on the top shelf so the peppers are nice and close to the heat source. Turn occasionally until all sides are roasted nicely. Place peppers off to the side to cool.
Now, bring the remaining 2 ½ cups of milk to a simmer. Using a whisk, stir in the cornmeal a little at a time. This will prevent clumping and lumpy polenta. Stir constantly for 5 minutes. This will work the starch out of the cornmeal, making it silky and creamy.
Quarter your jalapeños lengthwise. Now, people say the level of hotness is in the seeds, some say it’s in the white ribs running along the inside of the pepper. Well, to play it safe, discard half of the seeds and half of the white ribs from the pepper. This should put us at a medium heat. Use as little or as much of the pepper as you can handle. In a blender, food processor, or with a knife, chop the pepper into a thick paste. Add the paste to the polenta and mix.
Taste and adjust seasoning. More salt, more pepper, more heat. I like white pepper rather than black because you can’t see it. You don’t get little black specs in the dish you’re making. And it’s a great way to season for kids – what they don’t see they can’t complain about.
Learn to trust yourself and your palate. Finish polenta off with 3 tablespoons of butter. This helps flavor, thickens and gives a nice sheen to the polenta. Serve with your favorite protein.
Left over polenta can be spread out on a sheet or plate and put in the refrigerator. The next day it will be firm. Slice it into strips, and put in a super hot pan and brown both sides. Serve for breakfast with eggs and bacon, or use the polenta instead of an English muffin for eggs benedict.
Do you have a favorite starchy side, or any other favorite side dishes that go well with everything? Tell me about them in the comments section below. (Make sure you’ve signed up for the site so you can leave your comment!)