I haven’t made the creamy-type of polenta in years…and I do mean years. I had forgotten just how good it is and that it’s a nice alternative to mashed potatoes. It also behaves as a backdrop for other flavors; herbs, spices, garlic, scapes or ramps, and in this case, cheese! Beautiful, creamy cheese!! I wasn’t planning on going the cheese route, but I had a few bits of assorted cheese and thought this might be a good way to use them up. It was one of those great, happy accidents that sometimes happen when The Goddess cooks. This blend of cheese was perfect for this stew, but I could have eaten it right out of the pot with a great big spoon…I didn’t. Goddess’s don’t do that sort of thing. We use small, dainty spoons, instead.
I happened to have part of a can of evaporated milk open and I tossed that in instead of some of the water. I loved what it did to the final product. I think it was creamier, which makes sense and the sweetness in the milk played well with the cheese. I think next time I may add some sun-dried tomatoes and chiffonade of basil, but I’m keeping the evaporated milk as part of the recipe.
Creamy Cheese Polenta
- 3 1/2 cups water
- 1 1/2 cups evaporated milk (1 can)
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons dried chopped shallots
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt (you’ll probably need more)
- 1 teaspoon dried minced garlic
- 1 cup coarse cornmeal (I used a slightly rounded cup)
- 4 ounces mascarpone cheese
- 2 ounces fresh mozzarella
- 1-2 ounces brie or camembert, rind removed and the cheese diced
- 4 tablespoon unsalted butter (optional, but why wouldn’t you?)
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Combined the water, milk and bay leaves in a medium saucepan. Add the salt, minced garlic and onion granules; heat until almost boiling. Slowly add the cornmeal in a steady stream while whisking constantly. Lower the heat; whisk and stir frequently for about 10-15 minutes or until the mixture is thickened and the cornmeal is tender (there should be no gritty mouth-feel). Low heat is essential or the mixture may stick and burn. When the mixture has thickened and become tender, remove the pan from the heat and add the cheeses and butter. Using a wooden spoon, stir slowly until the cheeses are melted. Taste and season with additional salt and the black pepper. Serve immediately.
NOTE: This is not a firm polenta, but rather a soft polenta, like loose mashed potatoes. It is perfect to serve under a good stew. Feel free to add some coarsely chopped fresh basil or marjoram, whole rosemary leaves or minced chives or garlic scapes.
Creamy Cheese Polenta Recipe©Marcia Lahens 2015. All rights reserved.
The most important thing to remember when you’re making polenta is to keep the hot liquid moving while you slowly pour in the cornmeal.
Then you whisk it frequently, keeping the heat pretty low, until it thickens. You can see the cornmeal beginning to thicken up.
Taste it and season with salt. It may take more salt that you think…it’s like rice or pasta, in that sense.
Since I added cheese, I corrected that salt AFTER I added the cheese, because some cheeses have more salt than others.
The whole thing only took about 20 minutes and just so you know, I cooked it ahead and reheated it slowly and it was fine. So you can make it earlier and have it waiting all ready to serve and just reheat gently at the last minute.
I made this to serve with the Sicilian Beef Stew and they worked well together. Next time, I’ll thicken the sauce a bit more…live and learn.