Polenta refers to both dry Italian cornmeal and the mush that results from adding liquid and then boiling. Consistency for proper polenta will vary from soupy or pudding-like to firm cakes that are fried, grilled, and baked. Polenta is often compared to grits and cornmeal mush, which are southern
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• Polenta is available as coarse, medium, and fine grind. Coarse-ground makes thicker, firmer cakes and fine will produce a soupy mush. Medium works for either.
• An instant version can be prepared in about ten minutes.
• Pre-cooked tubes and squares are ready to slice and heat.
• Store dried meal for two years or longer. Use an airtight container and place in a cool, dry spot.
• Refrigerate pre-cooked, or ready-to-use, polenta and use within two months. After opening, cook within a few days.
• Polenta continues to thicken as it cools. Let rest about five minutes if serving “wet,” or cook ahead of time and allow to cool into cake form. Slice or cut into squares and it is ready for frying and baking. Layer slices with cheese in between or top with mushrooms and fresh herbs.
• Traditional polentas (and many cooks) call for constant stirring, often for up to an hour. Modern cookware allows for an occasional stir and even less attention in a double boiler. It does require some turning and mixing so the sides and bottoms do not finish cooking before the middle.
• Fine grind tends to lump when added to hot liquid. Decrease lumping by dissolving a portion of the polenta in cold water. Cover and boil for about ten minutes. Follow with the remaining cornmeal and stir continuously.
• A longer cooking time will bring out an intense corn taste.
• Any cornmeal in equal amounts.
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