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Poured Polenta

In South Carolina they call this fried mush.

One 8-inch square of polenta for cutting into croutons


About 1 hour at the stovetop and at least 1 hour to chill


There is polenta you spoon, and polenta you spear. What accounts for the difference? Evaporation, my dear Watson. This recipe represents the stouter point on the continuum, polenta cooked long enough to settle into a slab once it has been poured, heavily, from the pot. Chilled, this polenta can be stamped out into wedges and fried—or grilled—and present a bolster onto which other, nice flavors and textures, may be spooned.

equipment mise en place

For this recipe, you will need an 8-inch square baking dish, a heavy-bottomed 2½-quart saucepan (preferably one with flared sides), a wooden spoon, a whisk, an offset icing spatula or spoon for spreading the polenta, and a wide offset spatula for removing the chilled polenta from the baking dish.


    Brush an 8-inch square baking dish with olive oil and set it aside. Place the polenta and water in a heavy-bottomed 2½-quart saucepan (preferably one with flared sides) and stir to combine. Set the pan over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the first starch takes hold, 5 to 8 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring frequently, until the grains are soft and hold their shape on a spoon, about 1 hour. Whisk in the salt, pepper, butter, and Parmesan. 


    Turn the polenta into the prepared baking dish and smooth the surface with a greased offset spatula or spoon. Cover and refrigerate until completely chilled, at least 1 hour or up to 4 days.


    Using a wide offset spatula, carefully remove the polenta from the baking dish and transfer it to a cutting board. Cut the polenta into pieces of the desired shape and size.