My first experience cooking polenta started out a little scary but it only took me a few minutes to pull it together and make a simple and satisfying Italian dish. The sweat started bubbling on my brow within 30 seconds of the cooking process. No no, girls don’t sweat; they glow. The glow took over my forehead the second the polenta hit the pan. You see, I had bought one of those polenta logs that are popping up in grocery stores in an attempt to make our lives easier. The polenta inside is pre-cooked so you just need to slice and heat…except I missed the slice part in the instructions. I thought I could just dump it in a pan and it would become that creamy mass of yummy goop you get in restaurants instead of the fried polenta cakes these logs produce. Those cakes are good, just not what I wanted for this recipe.
Turns out the fix was easy. I slowly poured in milk (1% – don’t worry this isn’t getting crazy fatty) while mashing the polenta until it reached a consistency I was familiar with: the texture of grits. That’s something a good Southern girl knows how to work with. If I tell myself polenta is just grits with a European accent, they don’t seem so scary.
I added some salt and pepper as well as some grated aged gouda I had leftover from a picnic in the park. I imagine ricotta and goat cheese would also work well. While the polenta was coming together I had a second pan going. This one had sliced cremini mushrooms, rosemary, and olive oil. Some garlic would be good too…if I had some. Oh well. I topped the polenta with the mushrooms and there you have it – a sophisticated Italian side dish. This is grits gone wild.