Polenta

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Polenta
Porridge
Cotechino-Servito-Polenta-Lenticchie.jpg
Polenta with lentils and cotechino
Place of origin:
Italy, France, Switzerland
Main ingredient(s):
Yellow or white cornmeal, liquid (water, soup stock)
Recipes at Wikibooks:
Cookbook Polenta
Media at Wikimedia Commons:
Wikimedia Commons  Polenta
 
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Polenta
Porridge
Cotechino-Servito-Polenta-Lenticchie.jpg
Polenta with lentils and cotechino
Place of origin:
Italy, France, Switzerland
Main ingredient(s):
Yellow or white cornmeal, liquid (water, soup stock)
Recipes at Wikibooks:
Cookbook Polenta
Media at Wikimedia Commons:
Wikimedia Commons  Polenta

Polenta (Polente or Poleinte in France) is cornmeal boiled into a porridge,[1] and eaten directly or baked, fried or grilled. When cooked, it has a warm jelly-like soft inside with a crunchy outside. The term is of Italian origin, derived from the Latin for hulled and crushed grain (especially barley-meal). It comes from the same base as "pollen".[1] Maize was not cultivated in Europe until the early 16th century.[2]

Description[edit]

A polenta and rabbit dish

As it is known today, polenta derives from earlier forms of grain mush (known as puls or pulmentum in Latin or more commonly as gruel or porridge), commonly eaten since Roman times. Before the introduction of corn from the New World in the 16th century, polenta was made with such starchy ingredients as farro, chestnut flour, millet, spelt, or chickpeas.[3]

Polenta has a creamy texture due to the gelatinization of starch in the grain. However, it may not be completely homogeneous if a coarse grind or hard grain such as flint corn is used.

Historically, polenta was served as a peasant food in North America and Europe. The reliance on maize, which lacks readily accessible niacin unless cooked with alkali to release it, as a staple caused outbreaks of pellagra throughout the American South and much of Europe until the 20th century. In the 1940s and 1950s, polenta was often eaten with salted anchovy or herring, sometimes topped with sauces.

Preparation[edit]

Polenta, by Pietro Longhi

Polenta is cooked by simmering in a water-based liquid, with other ingredients or eaten with them once cooked. It is often cooked in a huge copper pot known in Italian as a paiolo. Polenta is known to be a native dish of and to have originated from Friuli.[citation needed] Boiled polenta may be left to set, then baked, grilled or fried; leftover polenta may be used this way. In the nearby Trieste, it is eaten with a cuttle fish and tomato broth in the Venitian tradition, with sausage following Austrian influence or with cooked plums, following an ancient recipe. Some Lombard polenta dishes are polenta taragna (which includes buckwheat flour), polenta uncia, polenta concia, polenta e gorgonzola, and missultin e polenta; all are cooked with various cheeses and butter, except the last one, which is cooked with fish from Lake Como. It can also be cooked with porcini mushrooms, rapini, or other vegetables or meats, such as small songbirds in the case of the Venetian and Lombard dish polenta e osei. In some areas of Veneto, it can be also made of white cornmeal (mais biancoperla, then called polenta bianca). In some areas of Piedmont, it can be also made of potatoes instead of cornmeal (polenta bianca as well).

The variety of cereal used is usually yellow maize, but buckwheat, white maize, or mixtures thereof may be used. Coarse grinds make a firm, coarse polenta; finer grinds make a creamy, soft polenta.[4]

Polenta takes a long time to cook, typically simmering in four to five times its volume of watery liquid for about 45 minutes with almost constant stirring, necessary for even gelatinization of the starch. Some alternative cooking techniques are meant to speed up the process, or not to require supervision. Quick-cooking (cooked, instant) polenta is widely used and can be prepared in a few minutes; it is considered inferior to cooking polenta from unprocessed cornmeal and not ideal for eating unless baked or fried after simmering.[4] It is also possible to cook polenta in a pressure cooker.[5]

In his book Heat, Bill Buford talks about his experiences as a line cook in Mario Batali's Italian restaurant Babbo. Buford details the differences in taste between instant polenta and slow-cooked polenta, and describes a method of preparation that takes up to three hours, but does not require constant stirring: "polenta, for most of its cooking, is left unattended.... If you don't have to stir it all the time, you can cook it for hours—what does it matter, as long as you're nearby?"[6] Cook's Illustrated magazine has described a method using a microwave oven that reduces cooking time to 12 minutes and requires only a single stirring to prepare 3½ cups of cooked polenta, and in March 2010 presented a stovetop, near stir-less method, using a pinch of baking soda (adding alkali), which replicates the traditional effect.[7][8][9] Kyle Phillips suggested making it in a polenta maker or in a slow cooker.[10]

Cooked polenta can be shaped into balls, patties, or sticks, and then fried in oil, baked, or grilled until golden brown; fried polenta is called crostini di polenta or polenta fritta. This type of polenta became particularly popular in southern Brazil following northern Italian immigration.

Similarity with other foods[edit]

Europe[edit]

Polenta with sausages
Polenta with sopressa salami and mushrooms. This polenta was made with “Farina gialla di Storo” (“yellow flour of Storo”).

In Europe, similar dishes are:

North and South America[edit]

Polenta is very similar to mush, sometimes called coosh[citation needed], a dish of boiled cornmeal which is also often sliced and fried, but which is often eaten with sweet toppings such as maple syrup. A common dish in the cuisine of the Southern United States is grits, with the difference that grits are usually made from cooked, coarsely ground, alkali-treated (nixtamalized) kernels (ground hominy).

Polenta is similar to boiled maize dishes of Mexico, where both maize and hominy originate.

The Brazilian variety is also known as angu. Originally made by Native Americans, it is a kind of polenta without salt or any kind of oil. Nowadays "Italian" polenta is much more common at Brazilian tables, especially in the southern and southeastern regions (which have high numbers of Italian immigrants), although some people still call it angu.

Polenta is also a very traditional meal in Uruguay, Chile and Argentina, where many Italians emigrated in the 19th and 20th centuries.

A dessert dish called majarete made from grated corn or cornmeal, milk, and sugar is popular in Cuba and the Dominican Republic.

Caribbean[edit]

In the Caribbean, similar dishes are:

Africa[edit]

In Africa, similar dishes are:

Asia[edit]

In India, particularly in Maharashtra it is called Makyacha Kees. Also in Rajasthan, it is called kheech, served hot with ghee during winter months. All leftovers are sun dried into papadums called kheechla.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b OED 2nd ed.: a. maize flour, especially as used in Italian cookery. b. A paste or dough made from such meal, a dish made with this.
  2. ^ Maydica 51 (2006): 281-291, MORE ON THE INTRODUCTION OF TEMPERATE MAIZE INTO EUROPE: LARGE-SCALE BULK SSR GENOTYPING AND NEW HISTORICAL ELEMENTS, P. Dubreuil et al.
  3. ^ Zeldes, Leah A. (2010-11-03). "Eat this! Polenta, a universal peasant food". Dining Chicago. Chicago's Restaurant & Entertainment Guide, Inc. Retrieved 2011-05-18. 
  4. ^ a b Mangia Bene Pasta: How to cook polenta
  5. ^ Polenta Five Ways - Pressure Cooker Recipe & Technique with Variations
  6. ^ Buford, Bill (2006). Heat. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. p. 150. ISBN 1-4000-4120-1. 
  7. ^ Kimball, Christopher; Yanagihara, Dawn (January 1998). "The Microwave Chronicles". Cook's Illustrated: 11. 
  8. ^ Kimball, Christopher (March 2010). "Creamy Parmesan Polenta". Cook's Illustrated. 
  9. ^ Discussion of Cook's Illustrated article, with detail, available online
  10. ^ Kyle Phillips. "Polenta: Making it at Home". Retrieved 28 January 2007. 

References[edit]

External links[edit]