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Jennifer’s Kentucky Polenta


  • 1 qt liquid (water, milk, or broth)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • Olive oil
  • 1 1⁄2 C marinara (tomato sauce)
  • Parmesan or other cheese


Bring water and salt to simmer and slowly add cornmeal, stirring all the while until smooth. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until cornmeal loses its raw taste. (If serving as breakfast or side dish, remove from stove and serve immediately with butter on top plus honey or maple syrup.) Pour cornmeal into a 9- by 9-inch pan rinsed in cold water. Smooth top. Allow to cool, then refrigerate for at least 1 1⁄2 hours or until firm,

Heat oven to 400°. Slice mush into 1⁄2-inch thick slices. Generously grease a rimmed baking sheet. Put slices on the sheet and drizzle with a little oil. Bake until crisp and brown, about 20 minutes. Serve immediately with tomato sauce and cheese. Serves 3 to 4.

Cooking Tips
• Savory seasonings to stir into cornmeal mush or polenta include canned, diced green chilies (or pimiento), chopped chipotle peppers (they add heat!), smoked paprika, any sort of cheese (or pimiento cheese), roasted garlic, and bacon bits (or pancetta or country ham bits).
• Marcella Hazan’s famous quick tomato sauce for polenta: Combine 28 oz canned, crushed tomatoes, 5 Tbsp butter and ½ teaspoon salt in a saucepan. Peel an onion, cut it in half, and add to saucepan. Place over medium heat and cook 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve over pasta, soft polenta, or firm, fried polenta.
• Vegetarian mushroom topping for soft polenta: Melt 2 Tbsp of butter in a large, heavy skillet over high heat. Add half the mushrooms and cook over high heat, stirring only occasionally, so that mushrooms can brown, about 5 minutes. Repeat with the remaining mushrooms, using 2 more Tbsp butter. Combine the mushrooms and sprinkle with 1 tsp salt and ½ tsp thyme. Stir to blend and serve over soft or fried polenta. Sprinkle with cheese if you like.


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