Polenta (made from corn grits) can be served creamy like a porridge or firm. Of course, if you refrigerate polenta until firm, you should definitely do the extra step to get it crisp and golden. As polenta fries in oil in the oven or in a pan, it develops a chewier texture with stronger, more concentrated flavors with little pops of crunchiness. In this version, there’s sundried tomatoes woven in, but you could easily add in garlic instead.
Stores typically sell polenta in a roll. Many people try it and don’t like it because of the gelatinous texture. Well, that polenta is nothing like this one. When you make it at home, the texture is always creamier, more flavorful, and a great canvas for any herb you can think of. When I’m in need of a quick side dish, I start a pot of polenta because corn grits are always in my pantry.
Tip: When simmering polenta, it’s always a good idea to keep a close eye on what’s happening. Stir very frequently. Grits love to stick to the bottom of hot pans, where they can burn.
Another tip for making polenta? Use a lot of water. Corn grits triple in size as they cook, sucking up water like a sponge. When in doubt, always add more water. You can always cook off excess water via evaporation. So, rather than worry about over-cooking it…just focus more on cooking it enough.
How To Know When Polenta is Cooked
If serving polenta as porridge, there should be a soft texture with no grittiness. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to provide cooking times for corn grits — I’ve seen different bags of corn grits cook at completely different rates at the exact same temperature. So, simply test the texture yourself to determine that it’s fully cooked.
If you want to set the polenta into a solid state that’s great for roasting or frying, then you need to continue to cook the porridge to evaporate excess water. It will thicken and may pop out of the pot and splatter you so stir frequently and turn off the heat if this happens. It will be done at that point anyway.
I like to pour the polenta while it’s hot onto a baking sheet (for thin) or a casserole dish (for thick), then refrigerate. Once solid, polenta can be wrapped and stored for up to 1 week or used to make polenta fries or cooked until crunchy and chewy.
Crispy Sundried Tomato Polenta
- 1 cup polenta corn grits
- 4 cups water
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 7 sundried tomatoes, chopped
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter, or olive oil
- In a medium pot, bring the polenta, water, salt, and sundried tomatoes to a simmer and stir. Lower the heat to medium-low and cover with a lid – lifting every few minutes to stir. Cook time for polenta can vary; it's done when no longer gritty, approximately 30 minutes.
- Stir in butter and continue to cook with the lid off to thicken the porridge. Serve soft or pour into a baking dish and refrigerate for a firm texture.
- To roast the polenta, preheat the oven to 415°F. Brush the surface with olive oil and roast for 35-45 minutes, or until it reaches the desired level of crispiness around the edges. Serve with fresh herbs or shaved Parmesan.
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