Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Roasted corn and jalapeno cheddar polenta

Polenta is like the red head step child of the side dish world. Most people don't even know what polenta is here in the US. Its only when its referred to as grits, as most southerns know it as, that it gets any recognition. And, unfortunately, the recognition isn't that warm or welcome. Why, I wondered, are people so frightened of polenta. Is it the name? Do people just not know what it is? Could it be the texture? Could it be that maybe they've just never had good polenta? My best guess is a combination of all the above. I hope today that I can demystify polenta and introduce some of you to a new and tasty side dish.

Polenta is corn meal that's been slow cooked to rehydrate it. As mentioned it is known as grits in the south. But please, don't let the name grits turn you off. Yes there is a texture to polenta. However if it's cooked properly it won't be gritty or rough, rather the corn meal softens and becomes al dente and delicious. It has a great corn flavor and stands up well to rich and hearty dishes. There are different grinds to polenta, from instant (not recommended) to coarse grind super slow cooking ones, the choice is yours. Most supermarkets will have 'quick cooking' polenta available and the Kitchen Witch feels that this is a great place to start. After you've made it and decide you love its wholesome corny goodness then please try the coarser grinds, I hear they're loads tastier. I have a bag of Bob's Red Mill coarse grind polenta in the pantry and can't wait to try it! The quick cooking variety will take about 20 minutes to cook up into a creamy corny pudding. What you add to it to flavor it is pretty much endless!

When I created this side dish it was to accompny green chili pork stew. I was looking for something that would go well with the stews liquidy part and what pairs better than corn? I had an ear of corn in the fridge which I roasted under the broiler - you could of course do this over your grill - knowing that the sweet corn would add bursts of flavor as well as a roasted smokiness. Jalapenos seemed natural, they go well with corn as well as the green chili. Onions & garlic add the background flavors to make it more dimensional and the cheese adds the final layer of deliciousness. I left most of the seeds and veins in the jalapeno and honestly it was NOT hot at all. I could have used another 2 peppers before any heat was felt. Use your discression on how hot you want it for your family. I served this polenta in its creamy puddling like form but polenta is the master of make overs! If creamy pudding isn't your thing, no worries, simply pour your polenta into a sheet pan lined with plastic wrap and allow to cool. Once cooled you can slice your now firmed up polenta into any shape you desire and pan fry it in a bit of oil until its golden browned, flip and brown on second side. The exterior has a crispy brown exterior and the inside is a smooth creamy treat. This is a great way to use up left over polenta and its awesome with eggs.

I hope you try polenta in the future and embrace it as a quality side dish that the whole family can enjoy! Play around with the ingredients and add ins, making each batch as individual as you are. Happy cooking!

Roasted corn and jalapeno cheddar polenta
makes 4 servings
1 cup polenta (coarse corn grits)
3 cups chicken broth
1 ear of corn roasted and kernals cut from cob
1/2 onion diced
1 jalapeno diced
2 cloves garlic minced
1/2 c cheddar cheese
2 T butter
1 t kosher salt
black pepper to taste

Begin by roasting the corn in the oven. Set your oven rack on the highest setting and put it on broil. Place the shucked corn cob on the rack under the broiler. Roast until you have a few blackened kernels, rotate and roast evenly all over cob. Don't be alarmed if you hear popping, this is normal if your corn is very fresh. Its the liquid in the kernel expanding as it heats and essentially 'popping'. The popping is usually my indicator that I need to check the corn. Once roasted remove from oven and allow to cool, then cut the kernels off the cob once cool enough to handle.

In a sauce pan heat the butter over medium high heat. Add onions and sautee for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and diced jalapeno, sautee for 5 min longer until the garlic starts to toast slightly and the onions have softened. Add the roasted corn kernels and stir well to coat in the fat.

Add the chicken stock to the veggies in the pan. Using a whisk slowly whisk in the polenta. Whisk until all polenta is incorporated then switch to a wooden spoon. Bring the polenta up to a boil then reduce the heat to low. Cover polenta and cook for 15-20 minutes (or to instructions on package) stirring often to avoid scorch spots and lumps. Once polenta has cooled remove from heat and stir in the cheddar cheese, serve and enjoy.

Nutrition Facts provided by SparkPeople recipe calculator
Amount Per Serving
Calories 296.9
Total Fat 12.0 g
Saturated Fat 6.9 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1.0 g
Monounsaturated Fat 3.5 g
Cholesterol 30.4 mg
Sodium 1,685.6 mg
Potassium 183.3 mg
Total Carbohydrate 38.5 g
Dietary Fiber 1.6 g
Sugars 1.7 g
Protein 9.0


cajunlicious said...

This looks absolutely DELICIOUS!

StephenC said...

According to Bo (bosbowl.com) grits and polenta are not the same. According to Wikipedia they can be, depending on whether or not you use hominy. Whatever. Bo sent me some stone ground hominy and also some quick cooking grits. We enjoyed the heck out of them. The hominy has a distinctly different flavor from corn meal.

Ananda Rajashekar said...

for all the goodies right there in ing more i could ask for.... delicious!

Amy J. and Tiffanie A. said...

My new fav. obsession is corn and polenta! I love that you threw them together!

Big Dude said...

This sounds delicious and I love polenta, mush, or whatever else it's called either fresh like this or chilled, sliced and fried - especially with a fried egg on it.

Jennifer said...

I love this creamy, comforting side dish! I really like the textures and flavors you added to this polenta recipe...YUM!

Sarah said...

Oh yum, this sounds so good. I have been missing making all these different dishes - the Farmer's Market keeps me so busy and I don't even remember to take pictures.

Pegasuslegend said...

no doubt this is a keeper cant wait to try it! Love this with chili poured over the top too!

Jenn said...

I have enjoyed polenta many times, but I am ashamed to admit I've never actually cooked them. My favorite way was in an Italian restaurant where it was mixed the parmesan cheese and herbs... but this has jalapenos in it.. you know I'm diggin' that!! :)

Foodycat said...

I love polenta and I think this version looks totally amazing. Unfortunately it's one of the things my husband really doesn't care for.

anthony stemke said...

May be a red head stepchild but I love it.
Your version here looks great. My next polenta excursion will be this one.
Thank You.

Baking Addict said...

I love polenta! Must give this version a try soon. thanks!

Raina said...

Being Italian, I grew up eating polenta with tomato sauce and mozzarella. I love your spicy version; it sounds delicious:)

Care's Kitchen said...

Awesome post Andrea! I'm a fan of polenta but you are so right - many people want nothing to do with it!? I love your version here and great info here too! Thanks!

Yenta Mary said...

I adore polenta! But I usually just make it plain, and plop something on top of it. Glamming it up to make it shine in its own right is inspired!!!

Anonymous said...

Mmmmm, I love polenta, but this one looks way better! Kind of like jalapeno popper polenta! :)

Erin said...

I love polenta! But I never add in all those other great flavors. What a wonderful idea - Thanks!

Karen Harris said...

I do love me some polenta and your version looks fantastic. I bet it would be delicious with some green chili. What a treat.

Anonymous said...

Polenta is definitely one of those things I keep meaning to try...and somehow forgetting. Bookmarking this so I finally do! :) And, in response to your comment about xanthan gum in smoothies...it does help bind things together, but the biggest difference I noticed was that it seriously thickened the smoothie. I had to eat it with a spoon! I love it and definitely think it's a worthwhile purchase. I bought mine in bulk at a local health food store for a reasonable price :)

Katie said...

I LOVE polenta! This looks amazingly delicious.

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