Growing up Italian I was blessed to have been exposed to some of the most equiste food on the planet. One of my early favorites was Polenta. I love Polenta. It kind of got a bad rap early in the 30’s when it was considered a peasant food by Italian Immigrants. It was even discussed in early episodes of The Little Rascals as the dreaded Cornmeal Mush. Now if they had my Polenta they wouldn’t be calling it mush. There are two ways I enjoy eating Polenta, one is grilled lightly and topped with tomato and olives, and my most favoritest way is baking it and making polenta fries. In my early days I use to fry this because in Italy even polenta toasts are cut into triangles and fried. But now that I am about to make a life altering decision to get my weight in check, I am all about the healthy! I make Parmesan truffle polenta fries that are so yummy and so delish you can’t imagine how good cornmeal can taste. Serve that with a garlic aioli recipe in my Baked Steak Fries blog, or a spicy ketchup as featured here, because my boys like the ketchup better, made this way you won’t miss the potato, I promise.
A quick lesson in cornmeal. There are several types of cornmeal used for different applications in recipes. For Polenta, you want to use corn meal that it is a courser meal, you can actually see the larger meal that is milled, that is perfect for the polenta. When making corn bread, and grits, you want to look for a finer meal. Then there is what i used in making my tamales the other day, and that is essentially corn flour, Masa Harina. I have on occasion used them interchangeable with negligible results, for polenta you really need the course ground meal, but in a pinch I have used what is on hand and it was still delicious, just not as perfect as it would be otherwise. Also, you can use commercially made polenta, they sell them in the grocery store in a tube in the cheese or deli section of most stores, I would caution against this as I used this once to make grilled polenta toast, with roasted red peppers and fresh mozzarella for a party I was hosting, and the polenta was so bland, I had to dip them in Parmesan cheese and then grill to mask the bland factor, thankfully I averted disaster, but polenta is so easy to make, I make ahead the day before and keep in the fridge ready to go for a party appetizer or just a simple first course antipasta, delish!
I also like to take the same creamy formula and use it to make my version of shrimp and grits. I love the creaminess of it not to mention it’s a hardy but delicate southern classic comfort food, I put my Italian twist on it with spicy Italian sausage and crispy fried prosciutto, not true Southern, but definitely mouth-watering!!
So without further ado I give you my Italian versions of Cornmeal.
Shrimp and Grits
A Southern Classic, with an Italian Girl's spin, that's, easy, and oh so satisfying!
Credit: CrazySexySavor.com/Susan Mangieri-Maurath
- 2 cup of whole milk
- 5 slices of prosciutto (prosciutto is an Italian dry cured ham, when fried it gets crispy and tastes very much like bacon but a bit more delicate)
- 1 lb. of medium shrimp peeled and deveined
- 3 large spicy sausage links left whole until cooked off
- 1 cup of course ground cornmeal a
- 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 of Marscapone cheese or cream cheese
- 1 cup of sharp white cheddar cheese
- 2 tsps. of Cajun seasoning for the shrimp
- 1/2 cup of mixed bell peppers chopped or green is fine
- 1 clove of garlic minced
- the whites of 3 scallions finely chopped, greens chopped and reserved for garnish
- 1 tsp. of cayenne pepper
- 2 cups of chicken stock
- Kosher salt and cracked black pepper to taste
- In a large pan add water, milk, salt, pepper, whisk in cornmeal in a steady flow, whisking to fully incorporate the cornmeal and prevent lumps. Bring to boil. Let simmer, periodically stirring fully for about 15 minutes or so.
- Season shrimp with salt, pepper, and Cajun seasoning and set aside.
- While grits are cooking, In a frying pan saute prosciutto in a tbsp. of EVOO until crisp. Set aside on paper towel lined plate.
- In same frying pan add sausage, saute until cooked about 6 min. or so, set aside, In same frying pan, you may need to add some EVOO, just a teeny bit, add peppers, scallions whites only, and garlic, saute until translucent about 5 minutes or so.
- Slice sausage into one inch slices.
- Once veg are soft add shrimp back to pan, along with sausage slices. Stir to mix well heat about one minute or so and remove from heat. Cover to keep warm.
- When grits are done, immediately whisk in cheeses. Top with two tablespoons of unsalted butter mix well. Plate, then immediately top with shrimp, garnish with crumbled prosciutto and scallions greens. Serve immediately. Devour!
Polenta Parmesean Truffle Fries
A different take on a Truffle oil fry!
Credit: CrazySexySavor.com/Susan Mangieri-Maurath
- 4 cups of whole milk
- 1 1/2 cups of coarsely ground cornmeal
- 2 tbsp. of unsalted butter
- 2 oz. of Marscapone or cream cheese
- Kosher Salt and cracked black pepper to taste
- Black truffle oil about a 2 tsp. you can use white truffle oil it is a bit milder.*Truffle oil is not made from truffles but is a manufactured oil used solely for giving food the flavor of a truffle. A truffle is a fungus found underground, it is not a mushroom per say and debate from chef to chef varies on the place of truffle oil in cooking, but honestly I feel that is snobby Chefs who are full of shit anyway. So let there be truffle oil!
- 1/3 cup of Parmesan cheese
- a sprinkling of Rally’s fries mix (optional) it is a special blend mix to make Rally’s fries which are a big thing served at this western burger chain. I stumbled upon it a few years ago as I have a spice addiction, and have been known to clean out the spice aisle at TJ Maxx, trying different and unique spices…Shh..don’t tell my fireman.
- In a saucepan over medium heat, add milk simmer, slowly whisk in cornmeal until fully incorporated. About 5 minutes or so.
- Fold in butter, cream cheese, season with salt and pepper.
- Grease a baking sheet. Pour polenta onto baking sheet. Let cool about 25 minutes. Refrigerate at least one hour, up to 24 hours.
- Remove from refrigerator. Invert onto cutting board and cut into fries, the polenta cuts super easy. You want fries the size of a regular hand cut fry.
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
- Lightly oil a baking sheet with EVOO.
- Place polenta fries in a single layer on sheet pan. Drizzle with more EVOO.
- Bake for about 45 minutes, turning half way with a metal spatual. Check periodically you do not want to over brown these, as you wan the polenta soft inside.
- Remove from oven, immediately season with Parmesan cheese and a drizzle of truffle oil. Truffle oil is intese in its flavor, slow hand here and don’t over do it! I don’t like adding the Parmesean to the fries while baking off because I feel they brown prematurely. You can do that if you so choose, just finish them off with a sprinkling of more Parmesean cheese as they come out of the oven and drizzle with truffle oil immediately.
- Serve immediately.
For my spicy ketchup
Take a 1/4 cup of your favorite brand of ketchup, add 3 generous squeezes of Siracha, mix well. Serve along polenta fries. Simply delish!