Test kitchen secrets
Traditional Italian polenta is made from dried ground corn. The best polenta is organic, stone−ground and naturally dried to produce a medium, coarse or fine texture. A classic preparation needs only a few ingredients – water or stock, butter, salt, pepper and parmesan. Polenta can be eaten many ways: as a first or second course, as a side dish or a pre−dinner snack. Polenta is the name for the finished dish, but the cornmeal used to make it is also called polenta to ensure the right type of cornmeal is used to make that dish.
TYPES OF POLENTA
Traditional polenta was grown and produced in Italy from yellow or white flint corn; however, it’s being produced in other parts of the world these days, including Australia. Its unique texture comes from the flint corn it’s made from. It shouldn’t be confused with southern grits, which are made with softer dent corn which has more starch and results in a soft, creamy porridge.
Polenta is dried naturally and is ground to either a medium, coarse or fine grain. Instant polenta has been partially cooked and dried again, thus only taking minutes to cook. However, it doesn’t have the gritty texture of traditional polenta because it is often made with a fine−ground dent corn, which has softer skins (hulls) and more starch. It is best to use coarse or medium polenta for making this classic dish and save the instant polenta for cakes.
HOW TO STORE POLENTA
Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry pantry for up to 1 year. Or, better still, store in the freezer for 2 to 3 years.
Imported organic stone−ground, naturally dried polenta is the best type to use, and is widely available from supermarkets and grocers. Australia produces its own good−quality medium−grain polenta made from yellow flint corn. Look for packets clearly marked ‘Polenta’ to ensure you use the right sort of cornmeal.
WAYS TO COOK
A savoury polenta can be cooked as a soft, wobbly porridge or left to set in a shallow dish to cut into pieces for grilling.
Cooking soft polenta
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Issue 65 2020