Polenta Squares With Fontina Cheese…..

Polenta is an amazing neutral grain that you can easily tailor to your own taste.  I love it because it’s naturally creamy and sets up perfectly when refrigerated.  It can be cut into squares, triangles, or circles.  It can be pan fried, deep fried, grilled or baked.  (I feel like Bubba in the movie Forest Gump talking about all the things you can do with shrimp!)  I added fontina cheese to the hot polenta and topped it with additional cheese.  For a little color, I did a light sprinkling of sweet paprika and dried parsley.  You could add any cheese you like.  I think it would be amazing with a sharp bleu cheese and of course, reggiano parmigiano.

It can be served a couple of different ways.  You can serve it in its creamy state, right out of the pot.  You could put a spoonful right onto your plate or into a large soup bowl and top it with a thick marinara or meat tomato sauce.  Top with additional cheese and you have dinner.  I prefer it chilled in a 9×13″ pan, then baked and cut into squares.  This method is great for entertaining because all you have to do is pop it in the oven for 35 minutes or so and serve.

Enjoy as a vegetarian main dish with an arugula salad with a tangy vinaigrette.  Serve with most any rich, braised meat, grilled chicken or fish.    I served it with braciole.  The rich tomato and garlic sauce paired beautifully with the creamy polenta.

Polenta Squares

8 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups cornmeal
1/4 cup half and half
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cup cheese
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 tablespoon dried parsley

1)  Butter or coat a 9 x 13″ baking dish with cooking spray.
2)  In a large pot bring the water and salt to a boil.  Lower the heat so that it’s just simmering.
3)  With a whisk, slowly add the cornmeal to the pot, whisking quickly (and carefully)  to avoid lumps.  Once you get all of the cornmeal into the pot, you will notice it’s extremely thick.  Remove it from the heat immediately as the bubbling liquid can bubble right out of the pot and burn you!
4)  Immediately add the half and half and butter.  Whisk to combine.
5)  Add 1 cup of the cheese, stir gently to blend.  Pour into prepared pan.  Top with the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese.
Refrigerate until firm.
6)  Preheat the oven to 350′.  Bake for 30-40 minutes or until completely heated through.  Sprinkle with the paprika and dried parsley.  Cut into squares.  Makes 12 3″ squares.  Serve 2 per person.  Serves 6 total.



*For grilling or pan frying,  skip topping the cooked polenta with the extra 1/2 cup of cheese until after grilling.   Cut it into squares while it’s chilled and grill or pan fry.  Grilling can be tricky because it softens up again after heating.  The grill needs to be extremely hot and you’d want to coat it lightly with vegetable oil.  For pan frying, be sure the pan and oil are extremely hot so that it browns the polenta.  Flip very carefully.

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