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How to make ultra creamy polenta?


gfweb
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Just got back from a trip where I had the smoothest corniest-tasting polenta I've had. Silky smooth.

 

I can figure out how to get the increased corn taste...corn juice.

 

But I can't figure out how to get it so creamy.  Is there a particular type to buy?

 

Or do you zizz the hell out of it?

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Thanks, AM, but I wonder if t hat is all there is involved. There wasn't even a hint of granularity. But having never made the fine grind, who am I to talk?

 

While we are at it, is instant polenta ever good?  I've never used it either.

Edited by gfweb (log)
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..that is all . . .

 

the fine stuff is all but "flour" - using cream vs water will make for richer, or adding melted butter, etc.

 

however, the biggest influence is the grind methinks - coarse is about on par with the chunky consistency of grits - which is actually my preference, but that's just chewy-me....  I make it, pour it in a salmon can to set up (tapered, comes out easy...) then slice & fry up for breakfast.

 

polenta as a bed / side indeed can indeed require a different handling of 'the base ingredient'

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I agree that a relatively fine grind Italian polenta is a good place to start. What exactly do you mean by creamy? That could mean silky smooth, but also rich and tasting of high fat dairy. Usually I make a coarser grind of cornmeal packaged as grits, but in a pinch, if I want a fine grind, I just grind it some more. How long you cook it and the ratio of grain to liquid is also going to make a difference.

 

One important thing is to avoid lumps at the beginning by making sure you shake your polenta gradually into the  boiling water, either thru your fingers or through a strainer, and stir well, not only in the beginning but throughout the process. I usually add milk, not cream, but I don't see how adding cream would not make the end result "creamier." I sometimes add a bit of creme fraiche near the end, but the possibilities are endless: chèvre, various cheeses, etc. I've seen recipes that only use milk or dairy, but the ones I like start with water, then add the milk or cream in a couple of increments as the polenta or grits cooks down.

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Most absurdly creamy polenta recipe I ever came across was from the Scarpetta Cookbook (Scott Conant, 2013), and looking at the formula, I assume the difference is the HUGE increase in liquid vbolume and simmering time, compared to "normal" polenta recipes.  This is not a typo: two quarts dairy per one cup of polenta.  It is bad-ass crazy good.

 

1 cup coarse polenta

4 cups heavy cream

4 cups whole milk

1 TBSP kosher salt

4 TBSP unsalted butter

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

 

(paraphrased instructions for sake of brevity) :

Use a 5 or 6 quart pot.  Over med-high heat, warm cream and milk, whisk in salt until very frothy and hot, keep whisking while slowly raining the polenta into mixture.  Continue whisking about 8 minutes until granules swell, switch to wooden spoon to stir about 5 more minutes.  Turn down to medium until begins to bubble evenly.  Reduce to low, cover tightly, stir every 10-15 minutes until cooked through and liquid reduced, about 1.5 hours.  Just before serving stir in butter and cheese

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Just got back from a trip where I had the smoothest corniest-tasting polenta I've had. Silky smooth.

 

I can figure out how to get the increased corn taste...corn juice.

 

But I can't figure out how to get it so creamy.  Is there a particular type to buy?

 

Or do you zizz the hell out of it?

 

Like kayb, I also cook grits and not polenta.

 

I think the difference is the milled corn we use has been nixtamalized, which releases more nutrients from the grain.

 

I just hate gritty grits. If you follow the instructions on the package that is what you get every time. For non-instant white hominy grits, they say to bring 3 cups water to boil, add a little salt, and slowly stir in a cup of grits, cover and simmer for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Bull! No wonder they got their name, not to mention the lump factor.

 

I cook white hominy grits in 4 cups salted water to one cup grits, and you have to stir like crazy while adding the grits in a slow stream. Then continue stirring like crazy for five minutes, mashing any lumps against the side of your pot. A sturdy sort of flat slotted spoon helps with the task. Some batches of grain lump worse than others, and I'm on a 4 pound batch that's the worst lumper I've ever seen, and I am old.  :laugh:

 

After the delumping process, one can actually reduce heat to really low, cover and continue cooking other stuff, but you must still stir every couple minutes or so especially at first or it will lump and stick. The longer you cook and stir, the creamier they become, like risotto, sort of. I always start the grits first when cooking up a meal that includes them. They require all my attention at first, and only become creamier with time. You may need to add more water, depending on your grain and how long you cook them.

 

I had my first grits that I really enjoyed here:

 

http://www.yelp.com/biz/pams-farm-house-raleigh

 

Their great creamy grits are a by-product of having to hold them for service for hours, but it taught me how to make great creamy grits at home. It is not a fast food, but it is a wonderful food, and like good risotto doesn't rely on a lot of adulterant fats to achieve creaminess.

 

That said, I do so enjoy a nice pat of good butter on top of creamy grits, but it is not a substitute for developing the starch like in a good risotto.

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> ^ . . ^ <

 

 

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The best—and easiest—way to get great polenta is to take Paula Wolfert’s advice and cook it in the oven.  Oil your casserole, add water (and milk if you wish), polenta, some salt, a bit of butter, and bake at 350F for about 50 minutes. No stirring necessary.  Really.

 

The long, slow cooking makes the creamiest polenta ever.  Since trying this, I’ve rarely made it on the stove and when I have, I’ve regretted it, it’s never as good.

 

I first saw the instructions in Wolfert’s cookbook The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen but you can also find it here.

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So I got some fine ground polenta. It was of the instant variety. After 15 min it was like regular polenta as far as graininess, but finer grained.  So I cooked it an hour more... smoothed it out a little.

 

So I put in the blend tech and gave it a couple second zizz   =====>  Completely smooth and creamy.  Zizz too long and it got glutinous.

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Why does everyone mix their cornmeal.grits into hot water?  Is there a reason?  I always mix the corn with cold water -- no lumps -- then bring slowly to a boil, adding additional liquid as needed.   It's so easy that way and you never get lumps.  Maybe I should do a side by side taste test to see if there's a difference in taste or texture.  

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Why does everyone mix their cornmeal.grits into hot water?  Is there a reason?  I always mix the corn with cold water -- no lumps -- then bring slowly to a boil, adding additional liquid as needed.   It's so easy that way and you never get lumps.  Maybe I should do a side by side taste test to see if there's a difference in taste or texture.  

 

Everyone does it into boiling water, because that's what the instructions on the package and every recipe I've ever read say. I'm definitely trying your cold water method next time I cook up some of this 4 pound batch of grits I'm working through because it lumps worse than anything I've ever experienced. Thanks for this idea!

 

Edit: It makes sense to me, because when you make a slurry of cold water with corn starch to stir in to thicken a sauce, it works great and never lumps.

Edited by Thanks for the Crepes (log)

> ^ . . ^ <

 

 

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Like kayb, I also cook grits and not polenta.

 

I think the difference is the milled corn we use has been nixtamalized, which releases more nutrients from the grain.

Grits are not nixtamalized. That is a misapprehension deriving from the custom in some regions to refer to them as "homimy grits." But this usage of homimy does not refer to nixtamalized corn.

To test he hypothesis that this effect comes from using super-fine cornmeal, I would recommend putting it in a high-power blender like a VitaPrep before cooking, not after. The VitaPrep should be able to turn it into a powder-fine texture.

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To test he hypothesis that this effect comes from using super-fine cornmeal, I would recommend putting it in a high-power blender like a VitaPrep before cooking, not after. The VitaPrep should be able to turn it into a powder-fine texture.

Or just buy cornflour, which is already powder-fine. (The American kind, not the UK version of "cornflour" which, as I understand, is the same as "cornstarch" in the US.)

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Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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Everyone does it into boiling water, because that's what the instructions on the package and every recipe I've ever read say. I'm definitely trying your cold water method next time I cook up some of this 4 pound batch of grits I'm working through because it lumps worse than anything I've ever experienced. Thanks for this idea!

 

Edit: It makes sense to me, because when you make a slurry of cold water with corn starch to stir in to thicken a sauce, it works great and never lumps.

 

One of the reasons I like the Paula Wolfert oven method is that there are never lumps, it's always very creamy.  The cornmeal is added to cold water.

 

I usually use medium grain cornmeal because I like some texture to the polenta. But I still want it toothsome, no grit or crunch.  The oven method lets me have it both ways.  I'm telling you, it's great..

 

 

Would the slow cooker do this trick, instead of the oven?

 

I don't see why not, the principle is the same--long, slow cooking. I've never used one so can't offer any advice on time or temperature.  It's worth trying.  Just oil the pan inside.  Start with cold water.

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  • 6 months later...
On 11/27/2015 at 10:14 AM, SylviaLovegren said:

Why does everyone mix their cornmeal.grits into hot water?  Is there a reason?  I always mix the corn with cold water -- no lumps -- then bring slowly to a boil, adding additional liquid as needed.   It's so easy that way and you never get lumps.  Maybe I should do a side by side taste test to see if there's a difference in taste or texture.  

 

Hi Sylvia,

 

I'm late getting back to you here, but I have made grits three times since your post here. The first time was on autopilot I guess, because I stirred my lump-prone grits into boiling water as I've been doing for over 40 years. As I was fighting with and smashing the lumps, I remembered your post, so the next couple times I made grits, I used your cold water method. Why oh, why, do all the packages and grandma lore say to stir them into boiling water?!

 

Both times I have made grits with the batch of grits that wants so badly to lump by stirring them into cold water, there were no lumps in sight. Totally stress-free. Thank you so much for recommending this, and also thanks to @LindaKfor seconding the method. An old dog has definitely learned a new trick. :)  

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> ^ . . ^ <

 

 

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For lump free polenta, I bring a pot of water to almost  boiling point (already salted) and start pouring the polenta in a stream (using a bowl with a beak) without piling, this is very important. And I whisk at the same time with the other hand. Once it starts boiling it will not form lumps anymore and I'll switch to a flat wooden spoon. I never follow the ratio of polenta and water on the box because is never to my liking. I stop pouring before it gets too solid to for me. Also this is very personal.

My mom is from Bergamo and polenta there is bramata, the coarser version and thicker. I like it that way. If you go to Veneto is much finer and creamier, especially the white polenta. I don't like it as much. Just a matter of what you are use to. In the Como area, where my parents and sister live now it's always a mix of bramata and buckwheat. Very tasty, specially polenta taragna (cannot even think about calories there)

For example this lady here, Bruna, is from Chiavenna (land of bresaola), see how thick is her polenta?

Look instead at this polenta bianca from Veneto, so soft and runny. I'm not crazy for that but if you grill it and serve with some baccala' mantacato then I'm all happy

 

On 11/22/2015 at 1:29 PM, gfweb said:

Thanks, AM, but I wonder if t hat is all there is involved. There wasn't even a hint of granularity. But having never made the fine grind, who am I to talk?

 

While we are at it, is instant polenta ever good?  I've never used it either.

 

 

If you really had very good polenta, meaning done the right way and with good flour, the instant polenta is a pale comparison. But there are good and bad instant polenta. Valsugana brand is terrible for me. Moretti is passable. I cook it all the time,  especially if I do with the idea of cooling and grilling or frying it afterwards, but if I'm eating it hot soft it's really so so.

Edited by Franci (log)
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I add to hot-to-boiling for grits and polenta.

 

it's all in the whisk . . .  get the liquid in motion, add in, whisk continuous until it's floating about on its own. 

switch to a spoon/paddle as it thickens.

/magic off

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Well I did the boiling water method for 40+ years as I was taught, and pouring in the thin stream while whisking was always enough until I got hold of this 4 pound batch of grits that lump anyway. The lumps can be mashed out, but I have more fun stuff to do in the kitchen than fight with lumps. They don't lump at all when added to cold water, so I am a convert to the cold water method. There is no difference in the end product, so I figure, why not do it the easy way?

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> ^ . . ^ <

 

 

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