Sounds perfect for Thanksgiving, but why wait? We think that all of us should give thanks every day, not just once a year. There’s just too much to be grateful for not to do so; it should spill out into other days of the year. And, if it does, we think you can have dishes that are appropriate for Thanksgiving. Such as this one.
This is another 100% Scratchin’ original recipes developed, tested, and reviewed in the Scratchin’ It Test Kitchen (SITK) to ensure your dining enjoyment. We came up with the idea when we were looking around at our staples, trying to figure out something that would work for dinner, and realized that we hadn’t had polenta for a while. And, we love polenta. While we even like plain polenta, we especially like it with some extra ingredients to add flavor (such as, say, wild rice and cranberries), and either grilled, broiled, or baked, to make the edges crispy. If that sounds good, let’s get scratchin’.
Polenta is nothing more than cornmeal with a slightly coarser grind. We like the coarser grind, as it gives the polenta cakes texture, but, we think, regular yellow cornmeal will work, too. Wild rice, despite its name, isn’t rice; it’s a type of grass, and it can take an hour to cook, so we have you add it to the boiling water about 15 minutes before the polenta. It should end up perfectly cooked. Finally, we suggest that you serve this with a sauce of your choice, but we’ll tell you about ours for the night. We simmered about 1/3 cup of heavy cream, added 1/4 cup toasted and chopped walnuts, and a couple of tablespoons of grated Romano cheese. Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with sage after serving, and done.
Procedure in detail:
Precook wild rice. As we said above, wild rice takes a while to cook. Much longer than white rice, even longer than polenta, so we need to give it a head start. Bring the water and 1/4 teaspoon of salt to a boil, add the wild rice, and cook for about 15 minutes, adjusting heat as necessary to keep everything at a low boil.
Add polenta. This is a bit tricky, but not bad. Bring the wild rice back to a boil and start stirring rapidly. Slowly drizzle in the polenta while you’re stirring. If you don’t stir, your polenta will have lumps; if you don’t pour slowly, your polenta will have lumps. But, don’t worry, there are worse things than lumpy polenta. Continue stirring until polenta begins to thicken, about 5 minutes.
Cook. Reduce heat to low — the polenta should still bubble occasionally — cover, and cook, stirring every couple of minutes so the polenta won’t stick and scorch, until the polenta is quite thick and the wild rice is tender, about 45 minutes.
Add butter and cranberries. Stir in the chopped cranberries and butter, stirring until the butter is completely incorporated.
Season. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed, then remove from heat.
Shape polenta. You could serve the polenta right now as soft polenta, but we prefer it as polenta cakes. Lightly oil an 8×8-inch baking pan and pour in the polenta, spreading it into a layer about 3/4 inch thick. Cover with waxed paper and press smooth. Refrigerate until completely chilled, about 2-3 hours.
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Slice polenta. We like to cut the polenta into eight triangles by cutting it into 4 squares and cutting each square in half diagonally, but, feel free to cut it into other shapes, depending on what you’re making. Use a spatula to remove each triangle and brush with olive oil (we drizzled a bit on and spread it over the polenta with our fingers). Place on a baking sheet.
Bake. Bake the polenta for about 20 minutes, then flip each triangle over and bake for 15 to 20 minutes more, or until golden brown and slightly crispy.
Serve. Serve with your favorite sauce, or try the one we described above.
This polenta really tasted like a Thanksgiving side dish with the corn, wild rice, and cranberries. To accentuate the flavors, we sprinkled our sauce with a bit of dried sage right before serving. If you’re trying to think of a sauce, we suggest going with either a white sauce, such as the sauce we made, or with a brown, gravy-like sauce, perhaps with wild mushrooms. We will say that polenta does take a while to make, but, we think it’s worth it. Four stars on the official Scratchin’ It “Worth the trouble?” scale.