This breakfast polenta just edged out the do-it-youself waffle bar as my favorite crowd-pleasing brunch component. I love the idea of making a big pot, keeping it warm over a low burner (or crockpot!), and offering up a range of toppings, sweet and savory, for friends to choose from. It is creamy and comforting, and receptive to many add-in flavors and textures. For this version I served small bowls of fluffy yellow polenta topped with toasted almonds, jewel-colored dried fruits, and a drizzle of cream and honey.
Considerations: While you can certainly get away with using an instant polenta (and in turn much shorter cooking times), treat yourself to real deal, stone-ground, coarse polenta this time around. Keep in mind that each polenta has its own personality, required cooking time, and quirks (based on factors like the size of the grind, how long its been around, etc). The reward for a bit of patience is a loose, creamy, beautifully textured final polenta eagerly awaiting a dollop, swirl, or sprinkling of your favorite ingredients. Again, its great for a mixed-crowd brunch because the polenta itself in this case is dairy-free, vegan, vegetarian, I think it can qualify as gluten-free if you buy the polenta from the right source (maybe the GFers can help me out here)....I'm going to add a list of brunch-friendly toppings below here:
Breakfast Polenta Bar, topping ideas:
- toasted almonds, walnuts, or hazelnuts
- all manner of berries
- a drizzle of this blueberry maple syrup
- Rosewater Plum Compote
- poached eggs
- chopped herbs
- cream or even better, an infused cream
- chopped dates or dried fruit
- re-hydrated, chopped sun-dried tomatoes
Add any other ideas in the comments and I can eventually add those ideas to the list as well. Also, be sure to check back on Thursday, I have the next favorite cookbooks list going up and its a great one!
Breakfast Polenta Recipe
You can use any sort of dried fruit you like. I picked up a little bag of dried friar plums, and bright yellow pears at the market and used them this time around. Chopped dates are tasty as well. I used Bob's Red Mill Polenta, they also sell polenta with the nutritious germ still intact labeled as coarse stoneground cornmeal - slightly different beast. The later being the more "whole" option.
4 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup coarse polenta (not quick cooking)
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1/2 cup dried fruit, chopped
Bring the water to a boil. Stir in the salt and polenta. Stir and stir and stir. Reduce the heat (you might want to wear an apron as the polenta has a tendency to spurt and spit). Simmer for at least 30-35 minutes, if the polenta gets too thick and starts to dry out along the way, just stir in more water 1/4 cup at a time. You can cook the polenta for much longer if you like (again, great for a brunch scenario), just keep stirring in
splashes of water as needed. In the end I like my breakfast polenta to be on the loose side, thick enough to coat a spoon, but loose enough that it has trouble holding shape. Serve warm in bowls topped with almonds, dried fruit, a drizzle of honey and cream (or other toppings).
Serves about 4