Everything that you would normally make with homemade polenta you can also make with polenta from a tube, but with less fuss. In fact, homemade polenta is sometimes cooled in shallow dishes until it's firm and cooked in the same way you would cook commercial tube slices. Made from cornmeal of various grinds, polenta works as a main course, a healthy side dish, an appetizer and, in northern Italy, as breakfast fare.
Cut the polenta tube into slices about 1/2-inch thick and sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper. If you want, cut the slices in half for interesting half-circle shapes. (See Reference 2, for thickness)
Heat olive oil to medium high in a frying pan, brush it into a grill pan with a pastry brush or use olive oil cooking spray. A grill pan provides attractive grill marks, but the polenta will taste just as good without them.
Cook the polenta slices until they are browned on both sides, about 5 minutes per side. Be sure the pan is hot before adding the polenta so the slices have less chance to stick to the bottom of the pan.
Serve the polenta slices plain as a side dish to beef, sausages, lamb or poultry. Or top the slices with sauteed mushrooms or other vegetables, tomato sauce with or without meatballs, or a fried egg for a main course. For an extravagant presentation, layer the polenta slices between grilled portobello mushrooms and cheese, and top with tomato sauce.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and oil a baking sheet.
Cut the polenta tube into 3- to 4-inch strips to form polenta fries. Some of the fries will have rounded edges, but try to keep them in uniform sizes so they cook evenly.
Bake the fries for 10 to 15 minutes, turning once. You'll know they're done when they achieve a golden brown color. Serve them as you would french fries, with ketchup or with grated cheese added a few minutes before you take the fries out of the oven.
Soft and Creamy Polenta
Cut the polenta tube into rough chunks and place it in a pot. Using a potato masher or large fork, mash the polenta until it has a consistency that resembles mashed potatoes.
Add enough warm milk, chicken stock or vegetable stock to the polenta and heat it over medium heat, stirring constantly. For a richer polenta, add a few tablespoons of cream.
Add salt and pepper and serve the polenta as either a side dish or as a base for other ingredients. For more flavor, add cheese such as Fontina, Gruyere, Gorgonzola or Parmesan while the polenta is still heating and stir the mixture until the cheese melts into the polenta.
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- The Deluxe Food Lover's Companion; Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst
- How to Cook Everything Vegetarian; Mark Bittman
- The Flavor Bible; Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg
- Use polenta slices as you would lasagna noodles, layering them with cheese and spinach and baking them in the oven.
- If you want a very smooth consistency for soft polenta, use a hand-held mixer to blend out all the polenta chunks completely.
- Use plenty of oil when grilling or frying polenta slices so the slices don't stick to the pan
Susan Lundman began writing about her love of cooking, ingredient choices, menu planning and healthy eating after working for 20 years on children's issues at a nonprofit organization. She has written about food online professionally for ten years on numerous websites, and has provided family and friends with homemade recipes and stories about culinary adventures. Lundman received her M.A. from Stanford University.