Bring 6--8 cups water to a boil in a large, heavy saucepan and add the salt and then the cornmeal in a steady stream, stirring constantly with a whisk to avoid making lumps and having the meal seize up within the first few minutes. (You can also use 3 cups of the water, cold, to make a slurry with the meal, then whisk it in all at once.) Lower the heat and cook, stirring more or less constantly, for 30-45 minutes. If the polenta seizes up into a hard mass, add small increments of boiling water while it cooks, to smooth it out. When done, taste for salt and then turn of the heat and stir in butter to taste. Serve soft polenta immediately or keep it warm over boiling water until ready to serve.
FIRM POLENTA: When cooked, polenta firms up quickly. It can then be sliced and broiled, grilled, fried, or baked into casseroles and gratins. Make the Traditional Polenta using 6 cups of water to make a stiffer, drier polenta. As soon as it's done, pour it onto a clean counter, sheet pan, a large baking dish, loaf pan, or two pie plates. Using a spatula or knife dipped in cold water, immediately spread the polenta out to a thickness of 3/8" or so. Let it cool until firm, about 15 minutes or slightly longer if you've poured it into a loaf pan. Cut the firm polenta into desired shapes. Covered with plastic, firm polenta will hold for 1-2 days in the refrigerator.
Polenta with Browned Onions and Thyme: The addition of onion gives a larger range of flavor and texture to polenta. While the polenta is cooking, heat 2 tbs butter or olive oil in a medium skillet. Stirring occasionally, cook 1 large finely diced onion with 2 1/2 tsp chopped thyme (or rosemary) until soft, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir into the polenta during the last 10 minutes or so that the polenta is cooking. When done, turn off the heat and stir in 1 cup grated Parmesan. Taste for salt and season with pepper.
Crisp Polenta Sticks and Croutons
A tasty hot appetizer to serve with sea salt, herb salt, or sauce, such as Red Chile Mayonnaise, or Romesco Sauce. Slice firm polenta into pieces about 3" long and 3/8" wide. Heat an inch or so of peanut or olive oil in a cast-iron or nonstick skillet until it it's hot enough to sizzle a crumb of polenta. Add several sticks at a time to the pan and fry until crisp. They won't brown much and they'll probably clump together, but don't worry. Remove them to paper towels to drain for a moment, then pry them apart. Dust lightly with salt or ground red chile and serve. To make a crisp crouton for a soup, cut firm polenta into cubes and fry in the same way.
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|Serving Size: 1 Serving (47g)|
|Recipe Makes: 6 Servings|
|Calories from Fat: 48 (27%)|
|Amt Per Serving||% DV|
|Total Fat 5.3g||7 %|
|Saturated Fat 2.6g||13 %|
|Monounsaturated Fat 1.4g|
|Polyunsanturated Fat 0.8g|
|Cholesterol 10.2mg||3 %|
|Sodium 622.9mg||21 %|
|Potassium 118mg||3 %|
|Total Carbohydrate 31.3g||9 %|
|Dietary Fiber 3g||12 %|
|Sugars, other 28.3g|
|Protein 3.3g||5 %|
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Calories per serving: 181
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