BackstoryPolenta – sometimes translated as “cornmeal mush” – is often characterized as “bland,” “insipid,” and “tasteless.” Follow this recipe and you’ll create a polenta that is rich in flavor, yet fluffy and light in texture. The secret is in the long, slow cooking process, which transforms the raw cornmeal taste and gritty texture into a subtle, nutty, and smooth delight. When serving the polenta as an appetizer or on its own as a main course, we love the addition of melted Gorgonzola cheese and toasted walnuts. The polenta also makes a wonderful accompaniment to poultry and rabbit – in which case we omit the strongly flavored cheese and nuts.
- 5 cups milk
- 1 cup polenta (medium-grain yellow cornmeal, not instant)
- 5 tablespoons mascarpone cheese ( 2 ½ oz.)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
- 3 tablespoons crumbled Gorgonzola (2 oz.) (optional)
- 1/4 cup shelled walnuts, lightly toasted (optional)
- In a 2-quart, nonreactive saucepan, slowly bring the milk to a boil, stirring every few minutes with a wooden spoon to prevent scorching. To avoid lumpy polenta, follow this method carefully: Hold the cup of polenta in one hand and a firm whisk in the other. Slowly pour the polenta into the milk with a sprinkling motion and whisk constantly until all the polenta is absorbed.
- Turn the heat down very low. Switch back to the wooden spoon and thoroughly stir the polenta every 10 minutes for 1 hour. The polenta should have the consistency of firm mashed potatoes. It will have completely lost its raw corn taste and gritty texture. Stir in the mascarpone and season with salt and white pepper.
- Preheat the broiler. Spoon the polenta into a heat-resistant dish, dot evenly with the crumbled Gorgonzola, and melt the cheese under the broiler. Sprinkle with the toasted walnuts and serve.