Polenta is one of my favorite side dishes, and far more simple than a lot of people think. In this recipe video, I make a simple and tasty polenta that would go great as a side dish for roast chicken, braised dishes like oso bucco, or simple classic dishes like chicken piccata.
Polenta is just ground corn, essentially the same as grits, and once you can make one, you can make the other. Being an Italian preparation, I like to make my basic polenta with some parmesan cheese mixed in. You can also add other ingredients either mixed in with the polenta, or garnished on top. Either way you’ll end up with a great dish.
Recipe Overview and Keys to Success
To make great polenta I want you to play close attention to these few keys to success:
- Use enough water when cooking. Polenta will swell and thicken very quickly, and I usually find that I need a bit more water than the package tells me. Fortunately it’s easy to add more water as you go.
- Cook the polenta well. Similar to the amount of water, I find most packages under estimate the cooking time for polenta. I like soft, creamy polenta, and I generally find it takes about 40 minutes on low heat to get there – some packages may say 20 – 25 minutes.
- Gotta make sure you stir the polenta every 5 minutes or so. Although you’ll cook it over low heat, it does get very thick, very quickly. You can add some water if it starts to look like cement, but even then you need make the bottom is not sticking and burning..
Ingredients for Polenta (for two)
- Half cup of polenta
- 2 cups of chicken stock, or water
- Tablespoon of butter
- Third cup of parmesan cheese
- 2 – 3 tablespoons of cream
- Salt and pepper
Making the Polenta
- Bring the chicken stock to a simmer in a stock pot
- Add the butter and stir to melt
- Slowly drizzle in the polenta, stirring with a whisk so that it does not form lumps
- In 2 – 4 minutes the polenta will have absorbed enough water to plump up and begin to thicken quite a bit
- Season with a few pinches of salt and pepper
- Cover and simmer over low heat. The polenta will continue to absorb the water and soften. Check the polenta every 5 or so minutes and give it a quick stir to make sure it’s not sticking to the bottom and to prevent burning
- If the polenta gets very pasty and hard to stir, add some more chicken stock or water to thin it out. It should be about the consistency of loose oatmeal
- After about 40 minutes taste the polenta. The grains should be firm, but easily give way to the tooth – like al dente pasta. If it’s hard, continue to cook.
- Add the parmesan cheese & cream and stir to melt and combine
- Give it a final taste and adjust the seasoning if needed
Polenta makes a great alternative to some of the more “traditional” starches like mashed potatoes, rice and pasta. And it’s really easy to change up the style by adding other ingredients like sautéed mushrooms, broccoli, bacon, or just about anything else.
Hope you enjoy!!