Baked Polenta Fries

Baked Polenta Fries Recipe


Let's talk about all the great things you can do with a thick, shapeable, structured polenta. Don't get me wrong, I love a hearty, satisfying, sloppy-textured bowl of soft polenta with its porridge-like spirit now and then, but over the past few days I've been thinking about all the creative things you can do with a thicker polenta base.

The premise is simple, bring a bit of liquid to a simmer and add in enough polenta to create a structured dough. Cook until the mixture is thick enough that you can spread it and it will hold its shape. Smooth that dough out onto a baking sheet and allow it to cool. Now you have a slab of polenta that you can cut, slice or dice and then recook in many different ways - grill, fry, saute, bake, etc.

Today I wanted to make baked polenta fries, but you could just as easily fry or cook them up in a big skillet until they are nice and golden.

Other ideas:

- Cut the polenta slab into small cubes and pan-fry them in a little bit of oil until you've got a crunchy crouton - perfect for salads and soups.

- Cut it into cookie-sized rounds, layer them in a casserole with a favorite pasta sauce and some cheese, bake, and you've got a great family-style dinner.

- Cut into little diamond-shapes, bake or grill, and use as a crostini base.

- Your turn. I know you can probably do better that this. How about some ideas in the comments?

When you are shopping look for Italian brands of polenta, or de la Estancia ( from Argentina), a brand I like to use (see photo). I turn to de la Estancia quite often because it is milled very fine and cooks up in just a couple minutes - perfect for weeknights. It has a beautiful egg-yolk yellow color and I give it bonus points for being made from organic, non-GMO corn. Every polenta has its own personality based on the type of corn used, how it is milled, and how fast it gets to market. Many of the readily available brands can take 20, 30, 40 minutes to cook and texture and taste will vary from one to the next, so try a variety of brands before settling on one you like. For recipes like this one, at the end of the day you want a very thick polenta that will hold its shape.

I used a mix of water and milk for the liquid base because the milk would help me get that nice golden color when the polenta went into the hot (450 degree) oven to bake. I went for "wide-cut" fries because I thought they would be easier to handle, but after this batch I realized that with a little TLC you could certainly cut them half as thick before baking.

Polenta: This is the thickness you are after.

They make great party-fare or finger food, with enough structure to stand up to a fondue (cheese-based, tomato-based, the options are endless) - pretty much anything that pairs with corn should be open for discussion.

I'll leave the dipping sauce suggestions up to you as well - I'm thinking a chipotle-spiked tomato sauce, or a creamy salsa like this one....or something creamy and garlicky? Yum.

 
 
 
 

Baked Polenta Fries Recipe

This is a great make-ahead recipe. You can make a selection of dipping sauces in the days before you want to serve it and cook up the polenta in advance as well. The day of a party or dinner cut and bake-off the fries just before serving.

2 cups organic milk
2 cups water
1 1/2 cups polenta (see above)
1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup melted clarified butter or olive oil

Bring the milk and water just to a boil in a large saucepan. Slowly stream in the polenta while stirring constantly. Stir in the salt and turn down the heat a bit if needed (you don't want the polenta to scorch). Continue stirring until the polenta thickens up (see picture), this can take anywhere from just a few minutes to much longer depending on your polenta. Stir in the cheese.

Remove from heat and spread out 1/2-inch thick onto a baking sheet using a spatula (although I feel like I get a better shape by letting it cool a minute or two and then using my hands). Chill in a refrigerator for at least an hour, or overnight. Cut into wide-cut "fry" shapes using a straight-edge for guidance and uniformity (or opt for a more rustic cut). Rub each fry with a bit of clarified butter or olive oil and sprinkle with some salt.

Bake in a 450 degree oven, middle rack, for 20 minutes or until golden and crispy. Flip the fries once after ten minutes.

Makes 2 dozen wide-cut fries.

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Your Comments


matt
August 13, 2006

That's it! I've got polenta in the pantry and I'm going to make this right this very second!

What beautiful photos as always!

 

Christiane
August 13, 2006

I'm a huge fan of polenta crackers. I have a recipe posted for them on my food blog, but the premise is fairly easy. Polenta with fresh herbs, spread thin on a cookie sheet, and baked until crispy. Quite delicious and extremely versatile!

 

Twinkle
August 13, 2006

The picture looks all so great and yummy! I'm going to try it right now.

Thanks Heidi, for continuing this treat to the tastebuds!

 

Tracie
August 13, 2006

Speaking of Polenta...
I decided to make Lasagna for a late dinner the other day. Unfortunately I was plum out of ricotta! I had a round of store bought plolenta, so I cubed it and blended it in the blender with lots of chopped basil and a little water and S&P.
Made the creamiest addition to my chicken lasagna. Yummo!

 

Lulu
August 13, 2006

Wow, you make it thick! When I do polenta for shapes, I always cook it much thinner than that, so it pours out, then it solidifies as it cools.
Anyway, I wonder if you could make filled polenta fritters, like you'd do with risotto. Cheese in the center, or cheese+red pepper or something. Filled, shaped, fried?

 

Seattlejo
August 13, 2006

I never had any luck with polenta until I learned to bake it. Place in a greased baking pan at 3:1 ratio 3 cups water for 1 cup polent for firm, or 4:1 for soft. Bake until done.

It works like magic for me.

 

Rosa
August 13, 2006

I love "Polenta Fries"! Yours look very appetizing...

Your pictures are always amazing!

 

Vincci
August 13, 2006

My friends once made pizza with a polenta crust...

 

Barb
August 13, 2006

I had polenta for the first time recently, when I made a recipe off Food TV for caeser salad with polenta croutons. Very tasty, but they didn't keep well. I have a feeling I'll like the fries even more. I love your website. I just purchased one of the cookbooks you suggested, and have been reading it like a novel. There's a review on my blog.

 

TICTAC
August 14, 2006

To faint for...I want to dive into the picture....how deliciooous!!
I marked this page I know...I know I'll be in troubles with all these goodies...
Great Blog!
Cheers

 

Michael
August 14, 2006

I covet those squashed-looking cups you're displaying the polenta fries in!
Re: Thick polenta - growing up, my grandmother made polenta regularly. We always turned it out on a board and let it set up just a bit, then cut big slices with a piece of thread. I never even knew what "soft" polenta was until I saw it on television. I'm now the keeper of the polenta pot in my family, and I make it thick too.

 

nika
August 14, 2006

My mom grew up on a farm in the midwest and the cooking traditions in her family are more hillbilly than anything (tennessee I think but way back, maybe mid 1800s).

Polenta is grits and grits are divine. But sometimes ya gotta change things up so grits can morph into other things, namely "Mush".

You make a mess of bland grits, pour it in a bread pan, cool overnight. In the morning, slice the congealed grits into smallish rectangles, saute in butter to get a bit of color, serve hot with syrup, eat up.

Pull on your overalls and go back out to the barn/field/chicken house/tractor, what ever fits for the day.

 

Deb
August 14, 2006

That's great!

What would you do with millet? I picked up a bag of organic millet and have no idea how to make it into a tasty meal. Any suggestions?

Thanks!

 

Karin
August 14, 2006

Once a had a great polenta appetizer - the polenta was thick and cut into large squares then lightly sauteed to brown the edges and served with a mushroom sauce over top.

 

kim
August 14, 2006

What beautiful photos as always!

 

kari
August 14, 2006

millet salad for 'deb' - out of new vegetarian cooking

boil millet in salted water til done
drain and drizzle in xvoo, lemon juice, zest, s+p to taste

serve over washed rocket w/ diced avocado and sauteed pine nuts

it's yummy w/ grilled fish

 

Tari
August 14, 2006

Our chef at work cuts out firm polenta with a nice flower cookie cutter and bakes them. Once baked, he layers two flowers with a thin slice of spicy cheese inbetween and on top with half a grape tomato on top for the center of the flower, and bakes again to melt the cheese and wilt the tomato. He serves his polenta flower with a garlicy mexican chicken stew. Very pretty and delicious!

 

Geneve
August 14, 2006

I love crispy polenta! You've got some great ideas for how to use it - another might be to make little round discs and then top with something like sauteed mushrooms with thyme as a lovely appetizer...
Great photo!!

 

Kathleen
August 14, 2006

ohmigosh - I haven't had fried mush in years. It never occurred to me that it was polenta. Thank you so much for reminding me of a delicious comfort food.

 

Sunny
August 14, 2006

I make polenta with just milk, then when it's ready I add honey and eat it like oats porridge.

 

Diva
August 14, 2006

How about Polenta Spaghetti? I make this all the time and my husband far prefers it over noodles.
I use a chub of garlic and herb polenta (health food store) and cut it into slices approx. 1/2 in.thick. I have already made my home made spaghetti sauce but you can use any good marinara with sausage for this same recipe that I make. I have the sauce in a pan simmering all day and when its ready I simply slap those polenta slices already cut into a olive oil and garlic seasoned pan. I use about 3 tblsps of Olive oil for about 6 slices of Polenta. I use a medium high heat and simply fry up my polenta till its browned and crispy looking on each side. Then put the sliced in a circle on a plate, top with spaghetti sauce and sprinkle with Parmesean and VIOLA, Polenta Spaghetti... GREAT STUFF!

 

Aunt Annie
August 14, 2006

Polenta is one of my all-time favorites. My mother used to bake it for us all the time. Will definitely pass on your ideas to her to see if she can update her timeless classic. If not, she can give it a try when she comes to my house.

 

sweettooth
August 14, 2006

I Love that you did something with polenta other than cut it into a triangle and bake it. I often find that chefs or people in general lack creativity when it comes to polenta. Whenever I order polenta it seems bland. I'am so happy to see this wonderful recipe and can't wait to make it! Thanks!!

 

UncommonMango
August 15, 2006

Ah! Polenta Fries! Reminds me of a great little restaurant in the Seattle area that used to serve them with their eggplant panini. Haven't had them since I moved away - but now I can't wait to have them again!

 

jenjen
August 15, 2006

hello, ive been visiting your blog for some time now but never commented before. But this really caught my attention. I love the yellow hues, they are just beautiful.
Your posts are always inspiring.

 

skrockodile
August 15, 2006

This is so wonderfully inventive -- kudos! I really enjoy your site and have tried a bunch of your recipes, my favorite of which is your triple chocolate espresso bean cookies. I've stopped adding chocolate-covered espresso beans, however, and replaced them with chocolate chips -- I kept getting feedback that people who didn't realize they were espresso beans thought I had accidentally left some egg shell in the batter! Something to think about if you add this recipe to your cookbook. I have added you as a link to my little blog -- please come have a look when you have a chance!

-S.
www.cookbookcatchall.blogspot.com

 

Cate
August 15, 2006

I like it cut into cubes, pan fried and served in a greens, beets, and egg hash. Yummy!

 

fanny
August 16, 2006

I would go for cute butterflies/flowers... But you know, i am a bit of a child sometimes!!!
Fanny

 

Amena
August 16, 2006

Ahh.... polenta fries! My boyfriend and I are going to have to make them this weekend!

I had also forgotten about the splendor that is "mush"! I guess I never knew to call it polenta- back in East Texas, where I grew up, we simply called it cornmeal mush and we definitely ate it with syrup! It's also very good all smushed up, with milk and sugar poured over it. That brings back fond, childhood memories. :)

 

Amy
August 16, 2006

I have a polenta recipe from the makeshift kitchen of a lazy college student (that would be me), who demands neat-o results with minimal prep time and cooking knowledge.

I buy prepared polenta at the grocery store (sorry!!) and cut it into slices, then lightly fry these in olive oil until crispy. Then I put the slices on a baking sheet, drizzle with a little lemon juice for tartness, and pile some goat cheese, bell peppers and sun-dried tomatoes on top. I then bake until the cheese is melted and things would hold together somewhat.

I recognize that my methods reflect a tremendous lack of culinary knowledge, but this is one of my favorite things to make and I thought it might inspire another polenta fan. Thanks a million for the wonderful cooking blog, and for the fry recipe!

 

Annie
August 16, 2006

In thinking about delicious accompaniments to corn-based polenta, did guacamole not come to mind? With soft preparations of polenta, the textures may be strange, but I think guacamole is always a good choice.
Also, at a kitchen I formerly worked in, we made our polenta with chicken broth and parmesan. The parm, added while polenta heats, adds a nice flavor dimension. This is further improved by adding fresh basil. Topped with a chunky ragout, it's a simple and delicious meal. And the cooled polenta is great for eating out of hand as a snack.

 

coffeepot
August 17, 2006

Wow that polenta is thick.

I always make it thiner too simply because that is how mom made it. It thickens in the fridge.

I've never used the organic.

Mine are more like Nika's. I want to try Tari's variation.

 

Angelotti
August 17, 2006

Polenta was a staple in my mother's northern Italian kitchen growing up. It was always of the porridge variety and usually served with spiced sausage. After dinner, the copper polenta bowl was left out overnight uncleaned and in the morning the leftover crust on the inside of the bowl was scraped out for breakfast - voila, cornflakes! Sounds a bit odd but these no-fuss homemade cornflakes are delicious in the morning

 

Gabriella
August 17, 2006

ooh that looks good. I have only really ever made soft polenta.

I just added you to my blog's favorite links.

xo Gabriella

 

Estelle
August 18, 2006

it looks delicious !!! thanks for the recipe !!

 

Ed
August 18, 2006

I always make my Polenta thick and then chill it until it becomes solid, from there you can do anything with it... Slice it, fry it, bake it, grill it...

Don't forget that once its solid you can cut up anyway you want - you could even make it into 'normal' sized fries in a Mandoline.

I love to add things to the Polenta as I make it. Last batch I did I turned two boxes of mushrooms (I'd guess maybe 200g) into matchsticks and sauteed them with parsley and basil and added them to the polenta (used veg stock, sadly from cubes but they were all I had to hand) along with more herbs, both fresh and dried. All in all it gave the polenta a wonderful, delicate flavour.

 

Carolyn Milliken
August 19, 2006

Terrific! Just had polenta fries on Tofino Island!

 

L.V.Subramanian
August 20, 2006

Thanks for your wonderful recipes. it is given in so simple words that one can make the wonderful dishes and enjoy. thanks to you once again.

i am from india and find your recipes real good.

 

Brad
September 23, 2006

I'm having a hard time finding "Polenta" in my local grocery stores. I really want to make this recipe and experiment more with Polenta. Is there any type of cornmeal that I can use to make polenta? Any assisstance would be appreciated! Thanks!