Polenta, or slow-cooked cornmeal, is one of the most versatile ingredients in the Italian kitchen. Served soft and steaming hot, enriched with butter and cheese, it makes a creamy bed for braised meats or poultry. Cooked ahead of time and firmed up in the fridge, it can be grilled and then used as a great alternative to bread for crostini and bruschetta. Grilled polenta can be served on a plate, to eat with a fork, making it slightly fancier than toasts.
Fresh corn is a favorite topping for grilled polenta, as are the earthy, strong flavors of Gorgonzola and radicchio. Experiment with your own toppings to get to know the fabulous taste and texture of polenta.
- Yield: 12 polenta squares
- 2 tablespoons butter, softened, for the pan
- 3 cups milk
- 1⁄2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 3 cups water
- 1½ cups coarse polenta
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
- Butter a 9 × 13-inch Pyrex or ceramic baking dish and set it aside.
- In a large heavy saucepan, combine the milk, 1 teaspoon salt, the pepper, and the water. Heat over a medium-high flame until foamy, 7 to 10 minutes.