Making tasty polenta while RV Adventure camping is definitely simple and achievable.
What's Needed for Polenta?
All you need is a stovetop or grill, and a saucepan then add a few simple ingredients.
Use a good quality Polenta – Avoid Instant
The type of polenta you buy seriously affects the quality of what you turn out on the stove. In a pinch you could use medium or coarse grain cornmeal in place of the polenta.
Polenta initially was a ‘thrifty meal' eaten to satisfy the stomach and ward off hunger. Today polenta has been elevated to include some tasty flavor enhancing ingredient that elevates this dish to a whole new level and likely to appear on some upscale restaurant menus as a delicious side dish with breakfast and dinner entrees. The old style hot water and cornmeal has been kicked up quite a few notches to a delightful creamy dish that has both smooth and complex flavors!
- Polenta is a porridge-like food made by boiling ground maize or other grain, and the dish is said to have originated Italy, where it was commonly eaten and eventually became a staple food among the poor and commoners in both Europe and North America.
- The term ‘polenta’ originates from the Latin word meaning ‘peeled barley’ and is linked to the Latin word ‘pollen’ meaning ‘fine flour’ or ‘mill dust’.
- Typically the grain used for making modern polenta is ground maize, known as ‘maize flour’ or ‘cornmeal’, and this ingredient is gluten free, making polenta a good alternative for those who can not have gluten.
- Before the availability of maize in Europe, polenta was eaten by Ancient Romans and was generally made of chickpeas, millet, spelt, chestnut flour, farro, or buckwheat, and today, the dish can be prepared with a combination of these products rather than the typical cornmeal dish we are familiar with in the United States.
- Polenta is most commonly yellow in color, and can range anywhere between yellow and white, and the color varies according to the grain used.
Polenta can be prepared on the stovetop, oven or even microwave. I like the stovetop technique so that I can watch the visual changes in the polenta's consistency and easily check the creaminess of the polenta with a tasting spoon as it cooks. The stovetop method takes about 25 – 45 minutes and requires frequent stirring. The polenta is ready to serve when the cornmeal texture transforms from gritty to smooth and creamy and the texture is as desired.
Cooking time for Polenta
Don't be fooled by judging the cooking time of the polenta by the thickening consistency. I find about 25 – 45 minutes of stirring the polenta is about right but timing can vary so rely on taste and have a few clean tasting spoons available. The cornmeal may look done but the polenta (cornmeal) may not be soft and cooked completely when you do the first couple of tastings at around 20 minutes. You want to cook and stir the polenta until it tastes creamy, corny, and slightly sweet.
Stirring polenta on the stove top
Use a Flavorful Liquid
While cooking polenta in water is standard procedure, you can substitute the liquid with more flavorful cooking liquid as I did in the recipe below. The substitution will definitely add depth to the finished product. To achieve an extra-lush polenta use chicken or vegetable stock and perhaps some dry white wine as the liquid rather than the usual water.
1/2 cup medium or coarse ground polenta
2 cups chicken broth or stock (vegetable broth can also be used)
1 clove garlic, minced
sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup grated parmesan
2 tbsp creme fraiche (mascarpone can be used instead)
2 tbsp unsalted butter
Directions for Polenta
- To a medium saucepan add minced garlic, chicken or vegetable broth, salt and pepper.
- Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat.
- Slowly whisk in the polenta then turn the heat to med/low or simmer.
- Change stirring utensil from a whisk to a wooden spoon. Note: A whisk will clog as the polenta thickens.
- Continue stirring almost constantly as the polenta thickens over the next 20 minutes or so. You want a thick creamy consistency similar to porridge (cream of wheat). Your spoon will start to separate the polenta at the bottom of the pan as you stir. When the polenta is at this stage, taste the polenta to see if it is creamy and the grittiness of the cornmeal is gone. If gritty, keep stirring and recheck periodically with a clean spoon.
- When the polenta is fully cooked, take the pan off heat and add the butter, creme fraiche and parmesan all at once to the pan. Stir until all ingredients are well combined and you have the desired consistency of the polenta.
- Serve as a side dish. Note: Polenta goes well with roasted pork.