This week I have chosen to cover polenta – which owes its origins to three countries – France, Italy and Switzerland. The word polenta itself is derived from the Latin root which has the same base as the word pollen. Prior to the 16th Century introduction of maize to Europe, polenta was made with practically any grains available, such as farro, spealt or various flours. Polenta has almost always been considered “peasant food.”
1 ¾ cupYellow cornmeal
3 tbspUnsalted butter
Bring the water to a boil in a medium sauce pot over high heat. Once boil is achieved, add the salt and allow to dissolve. Reduce the heat to medium-low and slowly start to whisk in the cornmeal. Stir the mixture until the polenta has become creamy and lump-less. Turn the heat up to medium and allow the mixture to come to a simmer. Stir often for roughly 15 minutes – then remove from the heat. Once the polenta has been taken off the heat, whisk in the butter until it has melted.
2 tbspSea salt
1 cloveGarlic, sliced thinly
1 tbspExtra virgin olive oil
2 tbspFresh cracked pepper
3 tbspUnsalted butter
¾ cupParmigiano cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and reserve 1 cup of water. In a medium sized pot over medium heat, add the olive oil and garlic. Allow the garlic flavor to infuse into the oil without browning the garlic. Cook for roughly 2 minutes before adding 5 cups of water to the pot. Bring the heat up to high and add your sea salt and pepper. Allow the water to come to a boil – once boil is achieved, mix your reserved cup of water to the cornmeal to achieve a “slurry” type of mix – then combine the mix into the boiling water, stirring until a consistency is achieved. Place a cover on your pot and put in the oven for 2 ½ to 3 hours. Once the polenta has achieved a creamy texture from the slow baking, mix in butter and cheese.
From this point you may serve the polenta as is or you can chill and cut into medium-sized pieces, which will afford you the opportunity to sear or grill the polenta – adding extra dimensions to a side dish that most of us have had at one time or another.
Whether you choose to prepare the classic, my twist or your own interpretation, remember that food is about bringing people together and that the act of cooking is about caring and as long as your heart is in the dish you prepare, the people you are cooking for will appreciate it (and you).
If you have any questions for me or would like to see me cover any particular dish in this column, feel free to write me, care of this publication. From my kitchen to yours, it is my pleasure to give you a peek into the mind of a chef. Thank You
Jonathan Jolicoeur is a chef at A Tavola – an Italian restaurant on Church Street in Winchester – which focuses on “farm to table” style of cooking. Jonathan was born in Somerville, lives in Woburn and has a degree from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts.