Polenta is peasant food for folks like us. Make it up, add the cheese, season to taste, and serve. That’s it in a nutshell. Except I don’t use creme cheese. Use parmesan, use asiago, use something a peasant would use, something that doesn’t require refrigeration. I don’t imagine many peasants with a package of Philadelphia Creme Cheese on hand.
- 4 cups of water (or 2 cups water to 2 cups stock)
- 1 cup of polenta (not instant – the peasant kind)
- 2 tbsp of butter
- 2 gloves of crushed garlic
- 1 cup of parmesan cheese (or other peasant hard cheese)
- Salt and pepper to taste
Boil the water (or water and stock) and when rolling, slowly add the polenta stirring to mix. When all nicely stirred in (~1 minute), add the butter and crushed garlic. Turn heat to medium/medium low, and stir frequently as the polenta thickens. You’ll start to see the wooden spoon tracing in the bottom of the pan, a sign that all is going well. When thickened (~20-25 minutes), add the cheese and mix in thoroughly. Salt and pepper to taste. You can serve as is, with marinara, gravy, eggs, however you want to eat it.
In East Africa, folks eat a similar dish called ugali in Kiswahili – it’s a bit grainier in texture and made from white maize. My point: if you cut out the butter and seasoning and simply serve thickened polenta in a beautifully sculpted mound with a side of fried greens and tomato gravy, you can eat it with your hands like a Tanzanian villager for Ethnic Grimm Fest.