Another request – for polenta. Polenta is a nice change from potatoes, rice or noodles. Polenta or corn grits is an interesting food. Polenta is not the same as hominy grits. Polenta is dried corn that is ground. The corn is not treated in any way. This is actually quite important. Corn is deficient in niacin, an important B vitamin. Masa and hominy came from Native Americans who figured out how to treat corn with an alkali, such as lime, making the hulls less tough. Something vital happens because of this process. It changes the availability of the niacin, so that the treated corn is no longer deficient in niacin. Sadly for the Italians, the technology for treating corn did not travel across the ocean with the grain. Parts of Italy – very poor parts – embraced corn like the Irish embraced the potato. But, because they didn’t know how to treat the corn, they were afflicted with pellegra, niacin deficiency. Native Americans didn’t suffer from pellegra because they know the secret to unlocking the niacin in the corn. One has to wonder how they figured this out.
OK, enough nutritional history! Since we’re all well-fed and get plenty of niacin from other sources, we can eat it without worry.
This recipe comes from The Turkey Cookbook by Rick Rogers (1990). Since we are approaching Thanksgiving, this seems like a great time to mention this cookbook. It’s one of my favorites. I love turkey and it is packed with hearty delicious recipes. The polenta is paired with thighs in a herbed tomato sauce which I’ll post at a later date.
3 cups cold water
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup coarse ground cornmeal (sometimes labeled as polenta or corn grits)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons butter
In a medium saucepan, bring the water and salt to a boil over high heat. Gradually whisk in the cornmeal so the water keeps boiling. This prevents lumpy polenta.
Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring frequently, until polenta is quite thick, about 15-20 minutes. You should be able to stand your spoon up in it.
Remove from heat and stir in Parmesan and butter until well-combined. Serve immediately.
Note: Leftover polenta is great sliced when cold and then panfried in butter or baked with butter and more cheese.