How to: make polenta

What is polenta? My new favorite thing to cook with. Also called 'Corn Grits', polenta is simply coarsely ground bits of degerminated corn. Polenta has been a traditional staple of both northern Italy and the American South that is usually cooked and eaten as hot porridge or cooked, then slightly cooled until firm and sliced into squares. Polenta seems to be gaining popularity in the 'foodie' world, as recipes are popping up all over the place in food magazines, cookbooks, and on food/cooking channels. Look for polenta at your grocery store in one of two places: in the cereal aisle near the oatmeal or in the baking aisle near the flour and cornmeal. Recipe courtesy of Rachael Ray.

1 1/2 cups water or chicken stock (chicken stock will give more flavor)
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup quick cooking polenta

2 tablespoons butter 
1 cup shredded mild cheese (such as Gouda) or 1/2 cup shredded sharper cheese (such as parmesan)
Salt & pepper
Fresh herbs

1. In a medium sauce pan, bring water or chicken stock and milk to a boil, stirring occasionally.

2. Slowly, whisk in the polenta. Cook 2-3 minutes until thickened, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. **Be careful: The polenta will start to bubble and may spatter.

3. Stir in mix-ins (i.e. butter, cheese, herbs) and season with salt and pepper (to taste).

4. Serve by itself as a side dish (with mix-ins) or top with spaghetti sauce, chili or roasted vegetables for a complete meal!


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