Have you ever had polenta before? Polenta is not an ingredient, as some people might think. It actually is a dish made from cooking coarsely-ground yellow cornmeal into a kind of mash. It can be eaten like porridge or mashed potato. I won’t go into the details of the classic dish right now, that will be for some other time.
If you let the polenta cool though, the consistency changes and the ‘porridge’ or ‘mash’ firms up so that you can ultimately cut it into pieces, like squares or wedges. When cut into pieces, you can perfectly grill them on the BBQ, roast them in the oven or fry in a pan with a bit of olive oil. Add a few spices and you have a prefect side dish for your grilled chicken or steak. Now I’ve made these patties or cakes on several occasions, but a few weeks ago I saw this recipe for polenta ‘fries’ on Boter, Kaas & Eieren Blog, a fun food blog with great recipes. I really thought this was a fun idea. Why I have never thought about ‘fries’ myself before, is beyond me. And since the boys are crazy about fries, I set to work (almost) immediately. I have made a different version, but you can find the original recipe here (a must-try!).
Just like couscous, I cook polenta in chicken stock instead of salted water. It adds so much flavor. You don’t even need to add other spices, but you can of course spice it up any way you want to.
For a regular polenta, that sort of has the consistency of potato mash, the cooking advice is 4 times the water for the amount of cornmeal used. To get a more sticky substance, that firms up nicely, I reduced the fluids to three times for the amount of cornmeal. That means 750 ml for 250 g of cornmeal. Please note that I used instant polenta cornmeal for this. Oh, and I added freshly grated Parmesan for extra taste.
Once cooked, transfer the mixture immediately to a greased or lined dish. The size of the dish depends on how thick you want the fries or wedges to be. I usually stick to 1 to 2 cm thickness (2 cm if I want to grill them on the BBQ). Smooth the top with the back of a spoon. It’s pretty sticky, so I place a piece of cling film on top and press down gently, to get a smoother surface.
Let cool completely before cutting into pieces. As mentioned, you can cut it any way you like. For grilling, I usually cut into triangles or squares. But in this case, I cut them into fries. Thick fries, about 2 x 2 cm, 5 cm long. You need to be able to flip them in the pan. And hold & dip. If they are too thin, they will easily break.
Once you’ve cut them into fries, heat up a little bit of olive oil in a frying pan and fry until they are nicely browned. Put them on a piece of kitchen towel to get rid of the excess fat, then serve.
They are great now for BBQ-season. They are the perfect side dish to grilled meats and veggies. Throw them on the grill or fry off in a pan. Which way you choose, they are sure to be a hit with kids and adults alike.
- 250 g polenta cornmeal (instant)
- 750 ml chicken stock
- 60 g freshly grated Parmesan
- Olive oil for frying
Bring the chicken stock to a boil.
Add the polenta cornmeal and stir well.
Let simmer for ca. 3 minutes, stirring regularly.
Once thickened, take pan off the heat and add the Parmesan. Stir well.
Transfer polenta immediately to a greased or lined (baking) dish and smooth the surface.*
Let cool completely, then cut into fries.
Heat a bit of olive in a pan and fry until nicely browned on all sides.
Serve and enjoy!**
*To get an extra smooth surface, put some cling film on top of the polenta and press down with your hands.
**Due to the chicken stock, there is no need to add salt on the fries. But if you'd like to spice it up, you might always add some chili powder or other spices to suit your taste.