When I think of polenta, nothing comes to mind. I’ve never had it before. All I know comes from friends who have tried it or from watching, you guessed it, Food Network. (Gee, they are getting a lot of advertising from me this month) From watching Good Eats, Alton Brown describes it as a creamy corn porridge that is very similar to other countries’ dishes. All they need is a difference in seasoning and cooking. But, when you get down to it, they are the same.
I think this explains it best;
As it is known today, polenta derives from earlier forms of grain mush (known as puls or pulmentum in Latin or more commonly as gruel or porridge), commonly eaten since Roman times. Before the introduction of corn from the New World in the 16th century, polenta was made with such starchy ingredients as farro, chestnut flour, millet, spelt, or chickpeas.
Polenta has a creamy texture due to the gelatinization of starch in the grain, though it may not be completely homogeneous if a coarse grind or hard grain such as flint corn is used.
Polenta has historically been a peasant food. The reliance on maize, which lacks readily accessible niacin unless cooked with alkali to release it, as a staple caused outbreaks of pellagra throughout the American South and much of Europe until the 20th century. In the 1940s and 1950s, polenta was often eaten with salted anchovy or herring, sometimes topped with sauces.
Strangely enough, Alton Brown is not mentioned anywhere in the wiki article.He does have an episode dedicated to this stuff. Since I’m not doing a cooking class, I’ll link you to the wiki for more details. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polenta
On to the recipe!
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for grilling or sauteing if desired
3/4 cup finely chopped red onion
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 quart chicken stock or broth
1 cup coarse ground cornmeal
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces Parmesan, grated
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large, oven-safe saucepan heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the red onion and salt and sweat until the onions begin to turn translucent, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, add the garlic, and saute for 1 to 2 minutes, making sure the garlic does not burn.
Turn the heat up to high, add the chicken stock, bring to a boil. Gradually add the cornmeal while continually whisking. Once you have added all of the cornmeal, cover the pot and place it in the oven. Cook for 35 to 40 minutes, stirring every
10 minutes to prevent lumps. Once the mixture is creamy, remove from the oven and add the butter, salt, and pepper. Once they are incorporated, gradually add the Parmesan.
Serve as is, or pour the polenta into 9 by 13-inch cake pan lined with parchment paper. Place in the refrigerator to cool completely.
Once set, turn the polenta out onto a cutting board and cut into squares, rounds, or triangles. Brush each side with olive oil and saute in a nonstick skillet over medium heat, or grill.
Check out others in the A to Z Challenge. http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/p/2012-to-z-challenge-sign-up-list.html