These crispy polenta rectangles are a delicious side dish, a satisfying and healthy alternative to good old potato sides. These beauties have a crispy and fragrant crust and a creamy center. They are very easy to prepare and quite quick. The less simple parts (because I cannot define them as challenging) are the preparation of the polenta and the baking part. Between those two parts there is a waiting period, a part where the polenta is refrigerated to firm up. In order to save some time I prepare my creamy polenta, I pour it in a tray and I leave it aside to cool down. While my polenta is firming up, I always prepare my protein. After the polenta is nice and firm, I slice it, I place the rectangles on a parchment paper-lined tray and I broil them to get them nice and crispy. To get the crispy crust you can also fry them in a nonstick frying pan but I prefer the broiled version.
I like to pair my crispy polenta with a rich, nutty and tangy beurre noisette and sage sauce. For this sauce I melt some butter in a skillet. When the butter has melted, I get rid of the foam from the surface and I continue cooking the butter until it turns golden brown. I add some fresh sage leaves, lemon juice and walnuts. Super simple and de-li-cious!
Ingredients (for 4-6 servings):
- 1 + ½ cups cornmeal (300g)
- 6 cups water (1400 ml)
- 1 + ½ tsp salt (12g)
- 3 Tbsp olive oil (45ml)
- 3 Tbsp bread crumbs (15g)
Basically, for each ½ cup cornmeal I use 2 cups of water and ½ tsp of salt.
- Bring to a boil the water in a large pan. When the water starts to boil, add the salt and the cornmeal and start whisking. Lower the temperature to minimum and whisk continuously until the cornmeal starts to thicken (after 2-3 minutes the cornmeal will have the consistency of a hot pudding mixture).
- Take a wooden spatula and continue stirring every 30 seconds to prevent the polenta to stick to the bottom. After 15 minutes, the polenta should be ready.
- After the polenta is cooked, pour it carefully in a small parchment paper-lined rectangle dish, level it with a spoon and leave it aside for 15 minutes to cool down. Refrigerate it for further 45 minutes.
- Take a baking tray, line it with parchment paper and drizzle 1 Tbsp of olive oil. Remove the chilled polenta from the refrigerator, take it out from the pan and discard the parchment paper. Slice it into 10 rectangles.
- Sprinkle each rectangle on one side with bread crumbs and place it bread crumb side down (this will prevent the polenta from sticking to the tray). Brush each slice with the remaining olive oil.
- Place the tray just under the broiler and cook until golden brown and crispy, for about 15 minutes.
- After 15 minutes turn each slice on the other side (bread crumb side up this time) and remove the bread crumbs with a brush (let them fall in between the rectangles). Bake for further 10 minutes or until the polenta is crispy.
- Leave the tray aside to slightly cool down and prepare the sauce.
Butter Sauce with Sage and Nuts
Ingredients (for 4 servings):
- 80g butter (about 5 Tbsp)
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 5-7 sage leaves
- 1/3 cup walnuts (35g)
- salt to taste
- In a small skillet brown the walnuts over high heat, to intensify the flavor and to get rid of their skins. Leave them aside to cool and remove their skins using your fingers.
- Clean the skillet and melt the butter over low heat. After the butter has melted, remove the white foam from the surface using a tablespoon. Cook the clarified butter over medium-high heat until golden brown. Add the sage leaves, lower the heat to minimum and cook for about 30 seconds. Add the lemon juice and walnuts and season with salt.
Serve the crispy polenta rectangles as a side dish or as a vegetarian appetizer with butter and sage sauce drizzled on top. Garnish the plate with red cabbage sprouts.