Grilled Polenta Slices Recipe

[Grilled Polenta Slices]

I have a strange relationship with polenta. I either love it or loathe it, depending on how it’s prepared. If it’s just been cooked and it’s mushy, the smell and texture really put me off. But if you let it settle and you slice it, or even better yet, if the slices are grilled, then polenta is my very good friend.

And on Saturday night, grilled polenta slices are what I served with the Ginger Pineapple Chicken Skewers. (You can see them pictured on yesterday’s post.)

Grilled Polenta Slices

- 200 g quick cooking polenta
- salt, pepper
- a handful of flour

(Makes about 18 slices, to serve 6.)

Cook the polenta according to package instructions. (Don’t you just love that in recipes? All I can tell you is how my polenta works : you dump it into 4 times its volume of boiling salted water, and stir for 3 minutes, until it’s thickened.)

Spread out a clean dish cloth on your counter (not a towel with little hair, but a smooth and close-knit one), and sprinkle flour on it. Pour the polenta on the floured area, then close the kitchen cloth over it and roll it to wrap the polenta into a log. Struggle a bit, it builds character. I’m not going to lie to you, this is not easier than it sounds. At all. It’s somewhat awkward, especially if, like me, you’ve got way too much polenta for your skimpy cloth (I’ve adjusted the quantity in the recipe here, but I had cooked about 300 g) and you find yourself with a huge undisciplined blob of polenta. Hence the shape of my log, more loaf-like than cylindrical, which in turn explains the oval shape of my slices. But it doesn’t matter at all really, and the final effect was very nice.

Let your log rest for an hour in a cool environment (the mini-balcony is a good place, but forget about the one in the living-room, there is no space for a polenta log amidst the brasses of flowers, plants and cacti that your boyfriend tenderly coaxes into luxurious growth. Use the bedroom mini-balcony instead.). After that time, it should have firmed up enough that you can unroll the dish cloth. Little bits of cooked polenta will stay stuck on the dish cloth, that’s OK. I think. Haven’t washed the dish cloth yet.

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Line a cookie sheet with foil, and oil it a little. Cut the log into slices, about 1 cm (a little over 1/4”), and arrange the slices in one layer on the cookie sheet. Sprinkle salt and pepper on them. Put in the oven for about 15 minutes, until the slices have turned golden and they’re a little crispy at the edges. Flip the slices, and put them back in for another 15 minutes, until you reach a similar aspect on the other side.

Serve warm, three slices per guest is good. These can be made ahead of time and reheated ten minutes before serving. Admittedly, the kitchen towel step is a little messy, but they are overall easy to make, and I just love the result : the crispy edges, the moist and mealy inside, the sweet corn flour taste… They were the perfect side for the chicken skewers.

  • http://www.murrayhill5.net/blog/inmykitchenblog/ Deb

    I too have a love/hate relationship with polenta. I find it most palatable when grilled and eaten with other things. It’s quite lovely with tomato sauce on top but I am not a fan of it when it’s served in it’s musy form. Unless it’s prepared with copious amounts of parmesan or pecorino romano cheese, and even then it’s best grilled. Yours looked like the perfect partner for those lovely chicken skewers. YUM!

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Deb – great tastebuds think alike! :) We seem to have the same taste when polenta is concerned! I generally dislike mealy mush, and can’t take tapioca or oatmeal either (unless it’s in the cookie or muffin form of course)…

  • http://www.gastroblog.com Jackie

    Hey, I really like the loaf-y shape of your polenta slices — much more “rustic” than perfectly cylindrical ones would have been.

    I’ve never had grilled polenta, so am interested to do so. I am wondering what kinds of sauces or chutneys might go well on the side (I have a feeling I might need them). I am also wondering if you could do this with couscous…I like couscous if it is prepared well, but sometimes the blandness just makes it seem not worth eating. The best way I’ve had it is with toasted almonds and toasted pine nuts, so I’m wondering whether forking some of these into a polenta mixture and then carrying on, as you have, to make it into a log, slice and grill it would work.

    Your blog gives me too many ideas, Clotilde! I hope I get a chance to make them all.

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Jackie – I’m not sure this would work with couscous, I’m afraid the grains wouldn’t stay together and the slices would crumble. Polenta works well in slices because the grains are so fine and it gets pretty firm when it cools down a bit.

    Adding stuff to the polenta before you grill it works very well too, and nuts are a terrific idea. I don’t know if you’ve seen my other polenta post, about Sun-Dried Tomato Polenta Squares (http://chocolateandzucchini.com/archives/2003/10/sundried_tomato_polenta_squares.php ), but I recommend that too.

    As for sauces, Deb says above that it’s good with tomato sauce, and I think it works well with fruity stuff (hence the pineapple pairing), so a sauce made with a base of chutney should be great!

    I am very happy that my blog inspires you, it is a most appreciated compliment!

  • http://www.murrayhill5.net/blog/inmykitchenblog/ Deb

    I do admit I really love oatmeal and tapioca, although I have never been able to successfully cook tapioca on my own.
    I sometimes wonder if it isn’t the texture of the polenta that bothers me more than the taste…

    I once had some grilled polenta at a restaurant, it had been prepared with pieces of bacon and lots of cheese, probably not very healthy but oh so delicious and decadent.

  • http://www.gastroblog.com Jackie

    I’ve only ever cooked with polenta to make cornbread, so I defer to your expertise, Clotilde! I love the look of the sundried tomato and basil polenta squares, and it does give me an idea (as your recipes seem to do!) — as I say, I have really only used polenta to make cornbread, which we eat in America with ham or chilli con carne. I wonder if a version of your polenta squares with bits of ham (and perhaps, as Deb’s comment makes me think, some cheese) would be nice. Sort of a croque monsieur, polenta-style.

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Deb and Jackie – bacon/ham and cheese in polenta? The two of you are on to something! “Polenta Croque-Monsieur”, I love that!

  • http://ilforno.typepad.com/il_forno/ Alberto

    After reading the coments I feel like I have to defend polenta a bit :-). I really like the stuff.
    Mushy polenta? I hate it too, but there’s no reason why it should be that way. I always cook it so that it is so thick that it sticks to the spoon and stays there. It all depends on how it’s cooked. If you use the instant (5 minutes cooking) polenta it all depends on how much water you use. If you make polenta from scratch (at least 30 minutes of constant stirring) the firmness depends mainly on the ratio of fine to “big” cornmeal. More fine cornmeal=mushy polenta.
    Also, if you’re looking for polenta ideas the classic matches for polenta are meat stews (spareribs in tomato and mushroom sauce, braised liver or hearts, gulash, hare in civet) and cheeses that melt easily.
    That said I love grilled polenta too, flavoured and not. My favourite: plain polenta slices grilled on an open fire or a grill pan till you can see the grill marks and topped with butter and parmesan :-9.

  • http://www.thefoodsection.com Josh

    This may be completely unorthodox, but I like to add olive oil to salted water in which the polenta is cooking. I think that the oil helps to keep the grains seperate (and less mushy), as well as adding a lot of flavor and richness.

    I have to admit that I learned to do this by seeing the method demonstrated by Rocco DiSpirito on the Food Network, but it was before his (infamous) reality TV show.

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Alberto – thanks for the expert advice on how to avoid mushy polenta! And those pairings are good to know, too!

    Josh – I’ll have to try the olive oil tip next time, it sounds good!

  • http://www.walkernewyork.com/eats/ kim

    I love, love, love creamy, soft polenta, and I’m all about the texture. Not runny, so it fills the bowl, but not solid either. It fills this perfect, warm, in-between place where you can eat it with a fork but you don’t have to cut into it (almost like whipped potatoes). I like to add lots of cheese and pepper, or have it with sauteed mushrooms. Or top it with crumbled Italian sausage and sauteed bell peppers.

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Kim – You make it sound excellent! I also love mushy food in a bowl, it’s just so comforting. Based on all the advice I got, I think I need to try creamy polenta again!

  • Lynn

    When I was a child my father made cornmeal mush and chilled it into a loaf, then sliced it, dipped it into flour and fried it. We had it in the mornings with butter and syrup. It was always one of my favorite things. Is this the same thing, that I now see in the stores, called polenta? Also is this a good for a diabetic to eat with vegetables on top, instead of pasta or rice? These ideas you have sound so good, I can’t wait to try them.

  • Jennifer

    Terrific! Thanks the idea of rolling the polenta. We’re having friends over for dinner tomorrow and I was worrying about when to prepare the polenta (I’m going to pan-fry it, as my oven will be occupied) given that I’ll be using nearly all of my baking pans for other stuff. How about lining the cloth with wax paper before rolling to prevent a mess?

  • Liz

    Hi, I like to cook gluten free so polenta is a great alternative to pasta. One thing I also do is like Lynn’s Dad – press it into a loaf pan to form and chill. It gives square slices, then I can layer it like in a lasagne. I am still working on the recipe, and have not decided if I need to grill the slices also or just cut. A lot of extra prep work to grill!

  • Zoe

    Tee hee, I’m a bit late to the party but after stumbling on this post during an internet surfing session I feel honour bound to defend oatmeal. A nice bowl of nutty, mushy/chewy steel cut oatmeal cooked with pieces of quince and topped with honey, cinnamon, vanilla, coconut flakes and cream – YUM. You could not ask for a better breakfast.

  • Allie

    Just came across this post…
    This is one of my favorite ways to eat polenta, although I always add some smoked cheddar cheese and sauteed green garlic on top!

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