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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Polenta in the Rice Cooker: It Works

Soooo, I've already advocated polenta in the slow cooker. Now, fickle me, I am putting aside that cumbersome appliance for my new bff in the kitchen: the rice cooker.

Of course, I did this for my daughter's cooking adventures in the dorm next year. I was skeptical, but since cornmeal costs about 50 cents/lb, I figured I could take a chance. I put in one cup of cornmeal and two cups of water, stirred, added some salt. Turned it on. It was bubbling like crazy. I decided that maybe I hadn't added enough water, so I added another cup after a bit. Stirred again (watch out for the splattering polenta--it burns).

Much to my surprise, it was fine AND it stuck to the pot less than it sticks to the slow cooker insert. Mr. FS complained mildly about how long it took to get the stuck polenta off the slow cooker insert. (Yes, he does most of the dishes too.)

The reason I was skeptical is because the rice cooker goes against polenta rules. Polenta rules state long, slow cooking at barely a bubble, preferably for hours, preferably by your nonna, preferably in a copper pot. The slow cooker actually fulfills the first rule. Rice cooker cooking fulfills none: it brings the polenta to a boil very fast, then cooks furiously, then switches to warm. Who cares? It worked, no lumps, and no sticking.

By the way, in the interest of frugality, you don't need to buy that pricey grain labeled POLENTA. You can buy cornmeal.

I have a feeling that my rice cooker experiments will transform my cooking life more than my daughter's.

Any good toppings for polenta?


Funny about Money said...

Hmmm... That is so interesting. I still haven't tried the slow cooker recipe but plan to.

The rice cooker idea is perfect for the dorm setting. What could the dorm resident cook to go with it? Could she heat some canned beans, possibly, dolled up with some garlic, herbs, and tomatoes?

I'm also wondering if she could take some good Italian salami, cut a couple of slices into small pieces, and then maybe mix that with some fresh cut-up tomatoes, a few herbs, maybe a cut-up green onion, and use that with a generous dollop of grated Parmesan as a topping?

Revanche said...

I'm so glad it works in the rice cooker too, but I'm drawing a blank on possible toppings. It always seems like it's accompanied by something fancy and I'm just not in the mood for that ... I'm sure there's something equally simple and delicious to go with it. A nice grilled sausage?

Shelley said...

My mom made cornbread all the time to eat with beans and she sometimes made what she called 'hush puppies' which I believe were deep fried cornmeal mush. I loved the name better than the product, but possibly because we only put salt on ours. Bill just tried a polenta dish in Italy and didn't much care for it. We buy big bags of polenta (you can't find cornmeal here, not the course kind I'm familiar with, but 'medium grade' polenta makes a cake-like textured cornbread, which is fine). We do corn bread with beans and cornbread dressing at Thanksgiving. I'm open to eating polenta as corn meal is a whole grain, I believe, and therefore healthy. I'm not likely to deep fry anything, though. For one I hate the mess and for two I'm scared of hurting myself; calories are sort of a thing for me too. Look forward to hearing about toppings. The only one that comes to my mind is syrup...did I just imagine that, or do people do that?

Duchesse said...

Yep, hush puppies served with real maple syrup, a dish beloved by those who used the Underground Railroad to get as far north as Canada.

I like polenta best cooled in a loaf pan, cut in slices and grilled. We serve it with any kind of salsa or just a pat of butter.

Polenta which can be made from any grain (even chestnut); yellow corn meal by far most common. Coarseness of the grind varies with geography; Italian polenta is made with a coarser grind than most American polentas. Here in Toronto you get various grinds so the polenta varies from firm to very soft.

Budgeting in the Fun Stuff said...

We eat our hush puppies with balsamic vinegar or just regular vinegar. I like to dip mine into gumbo and skip the whole vinegar thing altogether.

I didn't know what polenta was when I started reading, but it sounds like cornbread. Good toppings for cornbread includes almost anything, but I'm a fan of simple mild chile. I also like it with red beans and rice.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Funny--Oh, the salami especially sounds good. I'm dying to try Chinese sausage--I may get some when I go to San Francisco later this summer.

@Revanche--sausage--yes! Polenta is really poor people's food, so topped with beans, cheese, vegetables, etc.

@Shelley--It's panfried or grilled--not deep fried. Yes--it does come from a Southern US tradition too.

@Duchesse--Oh, I should have bought chestnut flour in Italy. I stayed in a tiny town that had just resurrected its chestnut mill. I couldn't imagine what to do with it at the time.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Budgeting--Chile is a good idea too. It's funny to see the intersections between Italian and US cooking.

Beady Chick said...

When I was little, my grandma used to make cornmeal "mush." She'd make a big pot, and we'd first eat a bowl hot, like cream of wheat or oatmeal, with sugar, butter, and milk. Then she'd pour the leftovers into a cake pan and let them harden in the fridge overnight. The next morning, she would slice the mush, and pan fry it along with some bacon and eggs. Yummy! I've been known to have it for lunch or dinner, simply fried in a little butter and topped with some shredded cheese, with my meat of choice alongside. (Or not, if I was going meatless for some reason!)