Thursday, April 02, 2009

The Power of Polenta

I’m eating down my pantry, and while the box of Instant Polenta hiding in the back of the cupboard isn’t quite 400 years old, maize was cultivated in Italy beginning in the 16th century. But, the venerable history of corn mush wasn’t quite the motivation – I’m trying to use up those staples that are crowding the pantry as I prepare for the influx of fresh garden vegetables that will soon fill the kitchen.

Just to give you an idea of exactly how chock-full of potential my little pantry is I’ve been working though the reserve stock for about three weeks now, consuming grains, rice, pasta and legumes – and haven’t had the need for a single serious supermarket shop. I figure at this point, I’ll be eating pretty well, and spending very little until about the first of June.

I predict that instant polenta is “the next big thing,” and will perhaps be bigger than microwave popcorn. Inexpensive, and easy to prepare, it’s the perfect recession food. One batch cooks up in five minutes and yields a substantial amount of corn mush. For those of us who are artsy-crafty types, it has the pliable tendencies of modeling clay. Pack the warm mush into a glass pan and pop it into the fridge and within an hour it becomes a sliceable loaf – about twenty meals worth, I’d say. Polenta slices can be layered, stacked or cut into uniform rounds, and fried, baked or grilled. Given a little time, I’m thinking I could even build one of those miniature Christmas Villages.

Use polenta slices as a base for a rustic Lamb, White Bean and Rosemary Ragout (Remember that leftover lamb? It’s the gift that keeps on giving!)

Or, cut slices of polenta into two-inch rounds for an updated take on the Southern classic Fried Eggs and Hominy Grits:

Right now, I’m pumped with polenta – overflowing, in fact. I’m estimating I can get about seven or eight more meals out of this golden brick. I see a few Polenta Ice Cream Sundaes in my future.

©2009 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

15 comments:

Kathy said...

I've never tried to make Polenta, instant or otherwise. Looks pretty good in your photos, especially with the egg.

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

This week my husband and granddaughter have been building a model of Hogwarts out of cardboard. Perhaps a polenta Hogwarts is in your future!

I love polenta and often mix in fresh herbs from the garden. One of my favorite dishes is a polenta, wild mushroom and cheese layered dish, with small polenta star cut-outs on top. It's always a wow when I make it for a dinner party.

Maryann said...

Nice post TW. I like the mushy type topped with wild mushrooms :)

Cakespy said...

YUM. I'm very lucky in that I love polenta and Mr. Spy does not. You know what that means: that entire loaf can get in my belly!

Helene said...

I really have to try polenta some day. It looks delicious.

A Feast for the Eyes said...

I love polenta, and it's been on my mental taste buds for days. I just spotted a recipe for polenta croutons that I want to try. It never occurred to me to use a loaf pan! Duh.

I'm on alert that my job(with a school district) might get cut. Yikes! Looks like I'll REALLY be eating from my pantry.

No matter what, I make it my personal challenge to shop no more than once a week, and to stick to my list. Must be my former "divorced mom days" survival skills.

GREAT idea! Thanks.

veron said...

polenta is delicious. YOu can always pan-fry left over and it'll be oh so yummy!

~~louise~~ said...

I had to laugh when I read this T.W. I'm anticipating the move to PA by June and I too have been cleaning out the pantry. I found a box of farina tucked way in the back. I was actually thinking of using the farina in some Polenta dishes to see how it would work. Lo and behold, your post. Gee, I wish I had some of that lamb...

Thanks for sharing...

Susan from Food Blogga said...

Give me my corn mush any night and I'll be smiling from ear to ear. I just made some the other night and topped it with roasted mixed veggies, tomato sauce, and melted mozzarella. Mmmm...

Giff said...

love the sound of that polenta and lamb ragu!

Elyse said...

I adore polenta. I'm so glad that it's becoming more popular. And I just love the idea of your polenta with lamb ragout. How delicious!! I had polenta with roasted root vegetables at one of my favorite restaurants the other night, and it was delicious--a dish that could totally be adapted depending on what veggies are in season!

Tera said...

I'm with Lydia and Maryann -- love polenta with mushrooms. In fact, I made some Friday night. Creamy polenta, mix in vegetable stock and tons of grated Parm-Reg cheese; topped with mushrooms (sauteed with onions, butter and red wine). Right, I said "creamy", not "low fat".

Liz said...

This CRACKS ME UP! First the "eat down the pantry" - that's what led me to make homemade marshmallows this weekend with rando box of Knox gelatin. I wish I had a box of polenta, but I did find an amazing quantity of crackers .... I wonder what I can crust with mashed up Triscuits or stoned wheat thins .... Good post!

My Carolina Kitchen said...

Your polenta looks terrific and so do your photos. I've never used instant polenta and our grocery store didn't carry it until very recently. I agree with Vernon, it would be very good pan fried as a left-over.
Sam

Jann said...

This is my kind of meal~I love polenta with cheese grated over the top....glad to read so many others enjoy it as well!