I love creamy polenta. From my first bite of hot goodness with a generous dollop of marscapone c. 1989 at Zuni Cafe in San Francisco, I was in love.
Now I’ve had the good fortune of being taught how to properly prepare the most basic food; beans, fish with a crispy skin, risotto, a sandwich, and polenta. A single decision can turn the mundane into magnificent, a flop into fantastic.
Want to know the secret to great polenta—milk. Some people use a good flavorful stock, so do I. But, also…add milk. About a third of my liquid is milk, the balance; stock or stock and water. Here’s another secret (can you believe it). After all the years I’ve spent constantly stirring a sputtering, splattering, yellow mash, (a good mess on the cooktop), I’ve discovered you can make creamy polenta just as well in the oven.
It takes a little advance planning, about an hour in the oven but, the hands free treatment lets you attend to other things. Spray or lightly butter/oil a glass baking dish, dump in your milled corn, then about 1 cup of cool liquid to each 1/4 cup of corn. Season; salt, pepper, a scant amount of herbs or spice optional. Throw a few pats of butter on top. Cover loosely with parchment paper, bake 350 for about 40 min. Remove from oven, stir gently, (this is when to incorporate grated cheese if desired), return to oven. About 20 minutes later you’re enjoying hassle free comfort food.