Preparing polenta is a ritual; eating it like receiving a sacrament. -Marcella Hazan

Although most Americans associate pasta with Italy, the primary staple of the Veneto, Friuli, and Lombardy is polenta. Traditionally, polenta is prepared in an unlined copper pot called a pailo, which hangs from a hook over the middle of the fireplace. Fortunately, preparing polenta today is not nearly such a pain in the ass.

In our family, we often serve polenta as the main course, but it is also a fine accompaniment to many dishes. It’s grilling season now, so think cooled, sliced, brushed with olive oil, and grilled to go with whatever else is on the grill. Polenta can be served with a pat of butter and grated Parmesan cheese. Or, topped with crumbled Gorgonzola cheese. When I was a cook at Zuni, we served it with a spoonful of Mascarpone cheese. You can also serve it with a couple of spoonfuls of meat or tomato sauce. Polenta goes with nearly any meat dish, particularly braised beef dishes.

Kenneth Bowen (former line chef at Masa's San Francisco)
4 1/4 cups water
1 tablespoon salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter (optional - well, not really)
1 cup course grained yellow polenta
1 Bring the water, salt, and butter to a boil in a heavy bottomed pot. The traditional polenta pot is an unlined copper pot, but a thick steel pot is perfectly acceptable.

2 Add the polenta to the pot in a slow stream so that you can see each grain of polenta landing in the pot, stirring with a whisk until all the polenta has been added.

3 Turn the heat down to a low simmer and continue to stir with a whisk. After ten minutes, exchange the whisk for a wooden spoon. Continue to stir for 40 minutes, adding a small amount of water if necessary.

4 The polenta can be served when done, or placed in an oiled bowl or container to cool. Cooked, cooled polenta will keep for several days and may be sliced, brushed with olive oil and grilled or broiled. Thin slices of polenta can also be used as a replacement for pasta in lasagna like dishes.

servings  use metric
original recipe yield: 4 Servings
Notes Polenta can be either white or yellow, fine or course. Everyone I know prefers the course yellow meal. Seek it out.
Polenta is prepared using approximately a four to one ratio of water to polenta.
Kenneth - Colorado Springs, Summer 2006

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