We love having polenta as an alternative to rice or potatoes. It's easy to make, if you know the secrets. You can serve it with veggies stir-fried in olive oil, or just sliced as a side dish.
1-1/2 cups water
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup corn grits
1 Tbsp. butter or olive oil
In a deep saucepan bring water and salt to a boil, covered. For safety, remove from heat, turn heat down to low, sprinkle corn grits into water, and stir until the lumps are gone. Return pan to the burner on low heat, uncovered. If it starts to splatter, remove from heat so the burner can cool down further. Then try again.
Cook on low, stirring often, until very thick--about 20 minutes. It will be sticky and gloppy. Give it the full 20 minutes on low so it will set properly when it cools.
Remove from heat, stir in butter or olive oil, and turn the polenta into a buttered or oiled deep bowl. Let stand for at least 10 minutes to set.
When ready to serve, run the tip of a knife around the edge of the polenta and turn the bowl upside down to release it onto a plate. Cut into 4 thick slices.
Secret #1: It’s easy to burn yourself with polenta splatters if you use a saucepan that’s not deep, or put it on a too-hot burner. Follow the instructions in the first paragraph, and you’ll be fine.
Secret #2: Leave a long-handled wooden spoon in the polenta while it’s cooking, for neat and frequent stirring. The low heat will prevent burning, but you can get a buildup in the pan if you don’t stir enough. Just keep stirring and scraping the bottom, and it will work itself out.
Secret #3: Don’t expect the polenta to bubble while it’s cooking. On low heat it will settle down quickly, and it thickens by giving off steam.
Secret #4: Plan plenty of time for the polenta to set up after cooking. If you try to take it out of the bowl too soon, it will be gooshy and not much fun to eat. Give it 10 minutes at the very least, and 15-20 minutes in hot weather.
Serve sliced, as a side dish or topped with vegetables sauteed in olive oil.