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POLENTA BASICS

 

The Silver Spoon, Phaidon Press

There are two common types of polenta: fine-grained, pale straw-colored Veneto polenta and large-grained, bright golden-yellow Lombard or Piedmontese polenta. The former is almost always served all'onda (literally 'with wave', meaning with a consistency similar to mashed potato), while the latter is almost always firm. Both, however, are stirred and stirred again in a copper pot with a softwood stick, traditionally over the flames of an open fire. At least, once upon a time it was like that. Today, polenta has caught up with the times and modern kitchen appliances. In fact it can even 'cook itself' in an electric, copper polenta pot or be purchased ready-made at some Italian delicatessens. There is also a third kind of polenta flour, buckwheat flour, which is used to make polenta taragna.

 

QUANTITIES AND COOKING METHOD

TO SERVE 6
About 3 2/3 cups polenta flour and 7½ cups water; the proportions vary according to how firm the polenta
must be for the recipe.

WATER
Bring salted water to a boil and keep another pan of water boiling in case it is needed.

POLENTA FLOUR
Sprinkle it into the pan while stirring constantly.

ADDITIONS
As soon as the polenta thickens, soften it with a drop of the reserved hot water. This is the secret to cooking polenta successfully, as polenta thickens with heat and softens with water.

COOKING TIME
This ranges from 45 minutes to 1 hour; the longer the cooking time, the more easily the polenta is digested.

SAUCES
Simple cold milk, fresh or melted butter, tomato sauce and cheese such as Gorgonzola or fontina. Polenta can also be served with stews and braised meat, or baked with cheese, butter and ragu (meat sauce).

STORAGE
Polenta flour must be kept dry, otherwise it goes moldy. Cooked polenta should be stored wrapped in a dish towel in the bottom of the refrigerator.
 

 

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