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polenta predicament


chezcherie
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i have some beautiful mascarpon-i-ful polenta chilling in the fridge.

what i want to do is panfry disks of it (in butter..or is that my problem?) so that it is golden-crisp on the outside. but i have tried this in the past, with poor results, and a test batch just now proved disappointing, as well. (delicious, don't get me wrong...just not crisp-golden.)

i have been using a non-non-stick pan*, and a knob of butter. would oil be better? a dry pan? would a non-stick be better? how long should it take? (i realize that there are many variables in that question...pan size, heat level, temp of polenta...should i withdraw the question?)

please help me get the yummy crispness!

*is there a more elegant term for indicating a pan that is "plain", that is not treated with a nonstick lining?

"Laughter is brightest where food is best."

www.chezcherie.com

Author of The I Love Trader Joe's Cookbook ,The I Love Trader Joe's Party Cookbook and The I Love Trader Joe's Around the World Cookbook

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hrmm. When I griddle polenta, I do the following:

- make polenta as usual, with less water (you want it to pull away from the sides of the pan as you're stirring), plenty of hard cheese, and only a little butter

- spread it in a greased pan to chill and firm up: this is what I cut into triangles and fry. You might want to spread to the thickness you want, chill and cut cookie-cutter disks.

- cut and toss the chilled pieces in oil and butter, preheated in a cast iron griddle.

Chilling the polenta really helps with firmness and shaping; preheating the oil and butter to medium-this-side-of-hot gets a crust on there fast (I've never used just butter; I'd think it would burn before you got a proper crust on there); the cast iron griddle is well-seasoned and pretty slick.

I'd try a cast iron or non-stick pan and use a mix of olive oil and butter. Put your chilled disks in and let them sit undisturbed until they have a firm crust and pull away from the pan easily. I think the creaminess of the marscapone might be hurting you here too - adds a lot of extra water to the mix.

Good luck! Stew-y things spooned on top of and soaking into sage-y. crisp polenta squares is one of the best things in the world to eat during the winter.

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I find that I need to change the liquid/solid ratio to do the panfry thing. Most recipes are 3 to 4 parts liquid to 1 part cormeal. This makes a soft polenta that's perfect for immediate serving. But if I'm going to fry it up, I cut the ratio in half, spread it on a sheet pan in the desired thickness and let it chill thoroughly. It's easy to cut in portions once it's chilled.

Of course, if what you've got is too loose, you can always do grits grillee a la maggiethecat: spread them on a sheet pan, brush with duck fat, and run them under the broiler until brown and crisp on top.

edit: cross-posted with e.j. I really don't think the fat makes a big difference. I've done them in EVOO, peanut oil, butter and bacon fat. You have to adjust the temperature a bit to avoid burning, but they all work.

Dave Scantland
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Eat more chicken skin.

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Good luck!  Stew-y things spooned on top of and soaking into sage-y. crisp polenta squares is one of the best things in the world to eat during the winter.

i think my polenta is ontrack as far as your description--pulled away from pan, firm consistency, and chilled well. when i cut the disks, they were clean, with no cracking or mooosh, so i think i'm good there. hadn't thought of tossing them in an oil/butter combo, but will do so. thanks for the suggestions--will take them to the "test kitchen".

have short ribs, braised in port with wild mushrooms....that's what i want to pair the polenta with...so i am in total agreement on the above sentiment!

"Laughter is brightest where food is best."

www.chezcherie.com

Author of The I Love Trader Joe's Cookbook ,The I Love Trader Joe's Party Cookbook and The I Love Trader Joe's Around the World Cookbook

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Ooops, I didn't mean "toss" so much like you'd toss potatoes in fat before roasting - just my flippant way of saying "put them in some preheated butter/oil".

Dave's reply reminded me that another way to do this is to brush the tops of the pieces very well with butter or oil and run under the broiler.

Maybe you could do this in greased ramekins if the stuff is too gooey? Hmmm....

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I find that the key is not to stir the polenta disks at all for the first 5 mintues of cooking (or so). I do it over medium-high heat in a cast iron skillet with good results using butter and olive oil (this is how my mother cooked cornmeal much growing up, and polenta is of course just the fancy name for that.)

This has worked for me with polenta that I've eaten in the morning as grits, so it was originally not that thick. After thickening in the fridge, it seems to fry up just fine.

The grill is also a good place to get a nice crust on polenta.

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Ooops, I didn't mean "toss" so much like you'd toss potatoes in fat before roasting - just my flippant way of saying "put them in some preheated butter/oil".

Dave's reply reminded me that another way to do this is to brush the tops of the pieces very well with butter or oil and run under the broiler.

Maybe you could do this in greased ramekins if the stuff is too gooey? Hmmm....

and "gooey" was my flippant way of saying "not crisply golden"...it's not really goo-ey, it just doesn't form a crust. i think the polenta is definitely firm enough to panfry or griddle. it hold together beautifully when cut, and in the pan.

maybe i just need to "cook like the beatles" ("let it be, let it be, let it be, now, let it be...")

dave's reply got me thinking that i love duck fat...and then i got terribly distracted, imagining polenta glistening with duck fat....

"Laughter is brightest where food is best."

www.chezcherie.com

Author of The I Love Trader Joe's Cookbook ,The I Love Trader Joe's Party Cookbook and The I Love Trader Joe's Around the World Cookbook

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