(makes 24 fingers)
Polenta is a refreshing corn-based alternative to having potato on your plate day in day out. It may be one of the harder staples to cook to perfection, but triple-cooking your polenta is a sure-fire way of bringing out the full potential of polenta in a crispy on the outside, moist on the inside format. Polenta is capable of accomodating a great depth of rich flavours, and in this recipe polenta fingers are infused with hints of garlic, herbs and cheese.
- Polenta-cornmeal (1.5 cups)
- Shallots (5)
- Garlic (8 cloves = 2/3 bulbs)
- Grated Parmesan (0.5 cup)
- Butter (50g)
- Herbs de Provence
- Chicken Stock Cubes (2)
- Corn Oil for deep fry
- Peel the garlic and put the cloves through a garlic press. You should end up with 2 heaped tea spoons of minced garlic.
- Dissolve 2 chicken stock cubes in 1.5 cups of boiling water and add 0.5t sugar and 1T Herbs de Provence.
- Chop up the shallots finely and fry them in a non-stick pan, on low heat in 25g of butter. It should take about 10 minutes for the shallot bits to soften. Then add the garlic and stir fry for a further minute making sure the garlic does not burn.
- Add the stock to the pan and boil for five minutes, then stir in 1.5 cups of polenta and reduce the heat to a slow simmer. Stir often to keep the bottom from sticking. If the polenta begins to dry, keep adding water a bit at a time such that you end up with a mashed potato consistency at the end of twenty minutes of simmering.
- After the heat is turned off, stir in another 25g butter, 1t black pepper and 0.5 cups of grated parmesan. The parmesan will act as the glue which will bind the mash together.
- Preheat the oven to 175oC (350oF). Pick a shallow pyrex dish such that the polenta will be 1 to 1.5 inches high when poured in. Line the pyrex with parchement paper. Pour the mash in and bake for 30(1 inch) to 40(1.5 inches) minutes depending on its depth.
- After baking, most of the extra water content would have been extracted and the polenta should have dried into a soft cake. When the pyrex has cooled enough to touch, flip the baked polenta onto a cutting board, also lined with parchment paper, so it can cool faster. You can keep the polenta in the fridge overnight at this juncture if you wish.
- Allow the the polenta cake to fully cool to room temperature before you begin cutting it. Use a toothless knife to get smoother edges. You can cut them into fish finger sized pieces (see photo to the right) or perhaps combinations of squares and triagles. Preheat some corn oil and deep fry the polenta fingers until they are golden brown. Pad with kitchen towels to soak up the excess oil, they won’t be sticky anymore. Don’t try to fry too many at a time as the moisture content is still high and too much water with hot oil is not a good idea.
- As nice as the polenta fingers are, they are still a tad dry to serve on their own. Also, this recipe is not all that salty since a sauce of some sort is presumed. I use my polenta fingers to accompany ‘wet’ dishes like osso bucco or duck l’orange.
- Alternatively, you can use polenta fingers as starters by serving them with some pasta type sauces. Refer to my Sausage and Wine Pasta (used in photo on the right) or Duck Ragout Pasta for ideas. Sauteed Mushrooms will also work.
- As a healthier alternative, you can grill the fingers on a wire tray instead of deep frying them. Pan frying is not a good idea as the polenta will stick to the pan and crumble if its not free-floating in oil.
- If you have no parchment paper, line the pyrex with foil. You have to line it with something so it flips out easily after baking.
- Incidently, if you want to make a polenta mash to accompany ‘dry’ dishes, you can use the same recipe until step 4. After that, just add some hot milk and continue cooking/stirring for a short while to get a nice bed of smooth creamy polenta – for things like grilled salmon.