Today is a stunningly beautiful day in the desert. I mean gorgeous. In the low eighties, a satisfying breeze, and since yesterday we had rain; a crystal clear sky. Just stunning.
It made me think of outdoor parties, finger food, a guilty indulgence of taste without regard to consequences. I was inspired to get to the blog a day or so early and share this sense of joy and fun, and hopefully give a reader a spot of cheer. The question was, what to make?
Then I remembered that a few posts ago, I had promised to share a recipe for fried polenta. Providence meets guilty indulgence. Today’s content served on a platter!
I made polenta in September when I shared the recipe for my pork roast of immense (awesome) goodness. And today’s post, coupled with that previous one, serves to demonstrate how versatile fried polenta can be. Substitute it for a more traditional starch in a full meal, make it as a snack, serve it as finger food at a party. It happily delivers in all scenarios.
Disclaimer…Matt came home for dinner last night, and I strongly suspect that one of the reasons we got him to come the 35 miles from where he lives was the promise of a steak dinner with fried polenta. That man LOVES fried polenta…oh, and steak too.
So, this is the third time in three weeks that I have made fried polenta. If you don’t tell anyone, I won’t either.
Part of the reason I have made fried polenta three times in three weeks is not only because it is amazingly good, but it is so simple and easy to make. Five little ingredients. That’s all!
I had a hard time finding polenta-grade corn meal at the store. This is the first time it has ever happened to me. Our three closest grocery stores have all gone through extensive re-sets this summer. I have gotten polenta meal at all of them before. But the two closest to my house did not have it this time. I’ve never not been able to find it.
I either get it out of the bulk bins, or I buy this brand. But I struck out this time and ended up with a different brand.
So, what makes this “Lori’s” fried polenta is that most recipes I see call for it to be seasoned with salt and pepper only. Corn meal needs a little more kick. Some add Parmesan, which is nice, but I like to top mine with that. My mother always used beef broth to make hers, and a little bit of garlic. I’m not sure I make it exactly like hers, but it is close. I give her credit for the origin but call it mine because I don’t clearly remember exactly what she used.
The key is, the beef bouillon and the garlic give the corn meal the kick in the pants it needs to deliver a big flavor profile. It makes it addictive. It makes it so you can’t just have one, or two, or three, or…yeah. Try it, you’ll know what I mean.
Grease the bottom and sides of an 11 x 7 Pyrex dish.
The only “hard” part is that you have to stir it pretty constantly. It takes 20-25 minutes to cook, and the rest is downhill from there.
You can tell it is done when a swipe through the middle creates a valley that reveals the bottom of the pan that does not easily close back together. Don’t stop short of that. If you do, the polenta may still be tough, and there will still be too much moisture for it to fry well.
Add the butter. Stir until it melts and is fully incorporated. Then turn off the heat.
Pour it into the prepared dish and let it sit until it is completely cooled.
Don’t cover it or the heat will create steam and the polenta will be too wet.
Don’t put it in the fridge or it will splatter in the fryer.
Once the polenta is at room temperature, use a sharp knife to cut a center line the long way. Then going the other way, make 11 even cuts so that you have a total of 24 rectangles.
You do not have to have a deep fryer. These fry up very nicely in a cast iron pan in about an inch of oil.
I just find it easier to use the fryer, and I happened to have some oil left from Matt’s dinner, so I was trying to be efficient.
Fry them until they have this wonderful, crusty, dark golden exterior.
Transfer the fried polenta to a paper-lined pan in a keep warm oven between batches.
I don’t recommend paper towels because they tend to soak up the oil and then get mushy, transferring the mushiness to the polenta. You want that decadent crunch when you bite into one.
You can top it with some Parmesan and garnish with parsley and serve as is.
You can pair it with a bowl of your favorite marinara sauce for dipping (I am a purist, preferring them plain).
Or, as I mentioned before, you can add it as a side for a main meal.
What you won’t do is eat just one. Trust me. I have a lot of will power. Except for this.
Let me know if you are the same!
P.S. It was even better with the wine. 😉
Lori's Fried Polenta
- 1 cup polenta-grade corn meal
- 3 cups of water
- 1 1/2 teaspoon beef bouillon caldo de reyes
- 3/4 teaspoon powdered garlic and herb
- 2 tablespoons butter
- Canola oil for frying
- Butter the bottom and sides of an 11 x 7 dish.
- Add the first 4 ingredients into a sauce pan over medium heat.
- Stir until it starts to bubble and boil.
- Reduce heat to medium low.
- Continue stirring until a swipe of the spatula or spoon creates a valley showing the bottom of the pan that does not easily fill back in. About 20-25 minutes.
- Add the butter.
- Stir until the butter has melted and is fully incorporated.
- Turn off the heat.
- Pour hot polenta into the prepared dish.
- Allow to cool completely.
- Cut into 24 equally sized rectangles.
- Deep fry until a crispy dark golden brown.
- Keep fried polenta in a brown paper-lined pan in a keep warm oven between batches.
- Garnish with shaved or grated Parmesan and chopped parsley.
- Serve warm.