At its root, polenta is peasant food: ground cornmeal that’s cooked into a creamy porridge, and it can be used for the base of all kinds of dishes, like meatballs and marinara, fried eggs and greens, roasted mushrooms and so on. It does take a lot of diligent stirring, and a lot of butter, salt and cheese for flavor, but the end result is not the tasteless mush it might seem like on the face of it.
Of course, using high-quality, locally milled cornmeal can take polenta from humble to glorious. Heirloom corn inherently has a more complex, nuanced flavor than your run-of-the-mill stuff (no pun intended). When a grain is freshly milled, it retains its rich, nutty sweetness, flavors that fade over time as something sits on a shelf.
So, what a treat it was when Tim Mountz of Kennett Square’s Happy Cat Farm and Chef Ryan Bloome came into the Pennsylvania Kitchen studio with a bag of beautiful Ecuadorian corn polenta. While you may know Happy Cat for its incredible tomatoes, it’s recently added corn and polenta to its lineup, turning amazing forgotten and rare native maize into stunning culinary products. This is Mountz’s way of offering a delicious alternative to GMO-raised monoculture corn.
He showed us one of his favorite ways to cook polenta: polenta fries! After the polenta is simmered, set, and fried, these crunchy, salty fries are finished with a shower of Parmesan, basil and salt, served with a side of Happy Cat’s delicious heirloom tomato catsup for a vegetarian side dish or snack that’s out of this world.
Watch the video for more info and the full technique, then head here to try the full recipe!
- Video and photo: Dish Works