Monday, March 21, 2011

No stirring

Polenta with sauteed Italian sausage and baby spinach

I’m not afraid to admit it: I’ve never made polenta before. I’m not afraid to admit the reason either: I was totally put off by the 30-40 minutes of continuous stirring that every recipe indicated was absolutely critical to a lump-free finished product. I like polenta, but not enough to contemplate the possibility of requiring physical therapy as the end result of a cooking project. (Should I mention the old hockey injury? Is that overkill…?)

Enter yet another unorthodox use of the slow cooker. Yes, you have to plan ahead, because the polenta needs to cook for 2-3 hours, but you hardly have to stir it at all during that time. Sounds like a fair trade to me.

Slow cooker polenta
Adapted from The Italian Slow Cooker by Michele Scicolone
I was a bit dubious about this initially, until I discovered that no less an authority than Cook’s Illustrated agrees that the slow-cook, no-stirring method is feasible for polenta. (They have a version that can be done on the stovetop for those who haven’t yet broken down and bought a slow cooker. If you happen to be one of them and want details, leave a comment and I’ll provide.)

1 cup/250 g coarsely ground yellow cornmeal (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
1 ½ tsp/8 g kosher salt
5 cups/1.25 l water/broth
3 oz/90 g Boursin black pepper cheese
salt & pepper

Add the first three ingredients to a medium or large slow cooker and stir to combine thoroughly. Cover and cook on high for 2 hours. Stir thoroughly again and cook for another 30 minutes to 1 hour; if the polenta is still very soupy after 2 hours (mine was), leave the lid a bit off-kilter so more of the liquid will cook off.

When the polenta is very thick and creamy, crumble the cheese and stir it through until melted. Season to taste with salt & pepper, and serve hot.

Serves 6 as a side dish, probably with leftovers.


diana said... Best Blogger Tips

Glad you found a version that works for you, but I say ignore the polenta stirrers and throw off the crock pot shackle (well, it's the anti-shackle, but I don't have the space for it on my countertop). I almost never stir my polenta non stop. Just put in plenta of stock, milk, water, whatever, simmer on low and stir regularly while you are doing other things. The last few minutes you really have to pay attention, but most of the time, several good, swift stirs ever 4-5 minutes keeps you in good stead.

This has me thinking that I'll make polenta with my red wine braised chicken thighs and mushrooms tonight. Perfect!

Roving Lemon said... Best Blogger Tips

diana, you rebel! Given my unnatural attachment to my slow cooker, I'll probably stick with that overall, but it's useful to have your authority on this should I need to produce polenta in less than 3 hours.

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