I will always be grateful to cookbook author Paula Wolfert for tipping me off to an unbelievably simple method for cooking polenta—one that requires no stirring. The polenta is baked, and the gentle heat of the oven produces results that are as voluptuously creamy as the long-tended stove-top version. Wolfert shared her technique (adapted from a recipe printed on the back of bags of Golden Pheasant brand polenta) in "Fine Cooking" magazine back in 1999. Since then I have never gone back to the traditional method.
Plain polenta makes a hearty base for stews or sauces, or a simple side dish for roasts. Folded with sweet, slow-cooked onions and Organic Valley’s blue cheese crumbles, it can stand alone as a vegetarian main course, too. And for a side dish to go with that? How about a peppery arugula salad, a sauté of bitter greens, or oven-roasted Brussels sprouts?
3 tablespoons Organic Valley Butter, divided
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2 cups Organic Valley Whole or Lowfat Milk
2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
2 pounds onions, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt and pepper
4 ounces Organic Valley Blue Cheese Crumbles
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a large enamel casserole dish or ovenproof nonstick skillet with a little of the butter. Add cornmeal, milk, water and salt and stir with a wooden spoon to combine. Don’t worry if the mixture separates; it will come together as it cooks. Bake uncovered 40 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, melt remaining butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium-low flame. Stir in onions. Cook them slowly, stirring often, until they are limp and golden, 30-40 minutes. Adjust the heat as needed to prevent the onions from scorching. Sprinkle the sugar plus salt and pepper to taste over the onions. Cook the onions another 5-10 minutes, until they are golden-brown. Remove onions and reserve.
3. When polenta has cooked 40-45 minutes, stir in salt and pepper to taste. Bake until polenta has fully absorbed the liquid, about 10-15 minutes longer. Stir in onions and cheese. Serve the polenta within 5-10 minutes (it will thicken as it cools off).
Copyright by Terese Allen