Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Polenta Fries Recipe

Polenta is a dish made from corn meal, water, and spices, cooked into a porridge. Until recently, I thought the only way to eat polenta was in porridge form, but recently I've discovered that polenta is a very versatile food, able to be prepared in many different ways, and oh so very cheap.
I'd read about making polenta fries on various recipe sites, but the instructions there were so deficient that I was constantly messing it up until I figured out these precise instructions, but once you get the method down pat, oh boy are they delicious!!!
Polenta fries have a texture that is unlike most other foods. They're crunchy on the outside, but have a silky smooth texture on the inside. Biting into one is such a terrific sensory experience.
I like to eat my polenta fries by dipping them into other foods, like salsa, curries, cheese sauce, etc. My kids just scarf them down plain.
My one biggest issue with making polenta fries is that I have to do it in batches, and by the time I finish making the last of the polenta fries, there's nothing left for me to eat as my kids gobbled it all down already!!!

Polenta Fries Recipe

1 batch of homemade polenta (or store bought... if you don't mind spending more money)
Oil for frying. I use either coconut oil or sunflower oil.

1. In order to make your polenta fries, you first need to mix up a batch of homemade polenta and then let it cool down all the way. Before cooling down, ideally move it to another (ideally greased) container so you can remove it more easily. I find my silicon baking pans to be ideal for this.

2. Flip your polenta out onto a large flat surface, like a cutting board, trying not to break it.

3. Cut your polenta into rectangles to be made into fries. You want each side of the fries to be between one centimeter and one inch wide. Any smaller than that and it'll fall apart, any thicker than that and it won't cook easily.

4. Pour a lot of oil into a non stick frying pan and heat on a high flame. You want to have enough oil so that sides of the fries get cooked at the same time as the bottom. (You can use less oil, you'll just need to flip over your fries twice as many times and cook them on all 4 sides instead of just two. Easier to deep fry like this.)

5. When the oil is hot, carefully place each polenta fry into the oil, and don't move it from where it lands! If you do, your fries will fall apart and your pot will get filled with icky bits that will burn and make your house all smokey.
Place as many polenta fries as you can fit on an individual layer- you want each fry to be touching the bottom of the pan, none should be overlapping whatsoever.

6. Let the fries cook undisturbed until you start seeing the sides of the polenta fries change color and become either a golden or medium brown. 
Using a spatula, test out one fry. Attempt to turn it over. If the fried crispy part separates from the mushier polenta, you've attempted to flip it too soon. Wait and let them cook some more before you attempt to flip them again.

7. If the test is fine, use your spatula and carefully flip over the polenta fries one at a time, again making sure not to move the fries once you flip them over, and making sure to keep them in a flat, non overlapping layer.

8. Cook the polenta fries on their other side until both sides are completely cooked. If you decided to use less oil, continue flipping them until each of their 4 sides get cooked...

9. Once all cooked, remove the polenta fries from the pan, place on a plate, and let them cool down. Repeat steps 5-9 with the rest of the polenta fries until you've cooked them all.

10. Once the polenta fries cool enough that you can touch them comfortably, and eat them as you would any other types of fries.

Variation: If you don't particularly need your food to be gluten free, or if you have a corn allergy, consider making your fries with semolina (cream of wheat) instead of corn meal. To do so, make my polenta recipe and just replace the corn meal with cream of wheat/semolina. Aside for that, you'd follow both that recipe and these instructions exactly.

Note: Once cooked, these make the perfect travel food. Aside from being somewhat greasy (which can be prevented by the use of by napkins, etc...), these are terrific for when you're out and about because they stay crispy, are still yummy when cold, retain shape, and don't require the use of a fork and a knife to eat it. Pair these with some lentil burgers or bean burgers and some veggie spears and you've got a nutritious, frugal, non messy meal perfect for those days when you're traveling.

Bon Apetite!

Have you ever had polenta fries? How do you eat them? Plain or with a topping, and if so, which topping? Do you think this recipe is one you'd try out yourself?

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