I have a few recipes in my repertoire that fix my cravings for anything crunchy. One actually uses millet, which I’ll post another time, another is oven baked potato fries. And then there’s this one. Polenta bakes up wonderfully crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, if you haven’t tried it, you really should. It’s surprisingly simple, can be flavored so many different ways and chilling the polenta is what takes the longest, but if you plan in advance these are super quick to make, especially if you broil them instead of just baking them.
You’ll notice in the recipe I said the cheese is optional. I actually don’t think the cheese added a whole lot to the fries, so next time I would leave it out and then in the last couple minutes of baking or broiling, sprinkle cheese over top and bake them just until it’s melted. How awesome does that sound? I also think a fresh jalapeno, finely diced and added with the garlic would be so yummy. Too bad I always think of the best ideas after the fact, hah. Either way though, if you want to omit the cheese(and even use oil instead of butter for a dairy-free version) and just serve them on their own with sour cream or greek yogurt and salsa, they’re still awesome 🙂
- 1/4C butter
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced, pressed or grated
- 1 1/2 tbsp mild chili powder
- 1 tsp oregano
- 2 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 11/2C water
- 2C milk
- 1C cornmeal
- 1/2C grated aged cheddar cheese(optional)
Prepare a 9×13 pan by greasing it lightly and set aside.
In a medium sized pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Once hot, add the garlic and saute for 1-2 minutes before adding all the seasonings including the spices and salt, and the water and milk. Bring to a boil. Remove from the heat for just a moment and slowly add the cornmeal while whisking vigorously. Once all the cornmeal is added return the pot to the heat and bring back up to a boil until the polenta is thickened. Once thick, remove from the heat and stir in the cheese, if using. Once melted, pour directly into the 9×13 pan and spread out evenly. Cool before covering and placing in the fridge until completely chilled.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, or preheat the broiler.
Remove from the fridge and flip the pan over onto the counter to remove the polenta. Then cut the polenta into “fries” about 1/2″ thick(I start by cutting the edges off so some fries don’t have a weird edge). Spray a baking sheet with oil and place the fries on the baking sheet, evenly spaced. Spray the tops lightly with oil. Place the baking sheet in the oven.
If baking the fries at 400 degrees, bake for approximately 30-35 minutes or until just golden on the bottom, then turn on the broiler and broil until the tops are golden(being aware that the bottoms will continue to darken with the broiler on).
If broiling, you can move the rack in your oven up closer to the heating element(but not too close – 6″-8″ is ideal) and if your broiler has different settings, choose the normal or medium setting. Broil until the tops are golden, then remove the baking sheet and flip the fries, carefully, as they might stick to the pan. Continue to broil until crispy on at least 2 sides. How long this will take will depend on how close the fries are to the heating element and how hot the broiler on your oven gets – this took about 10 minutes for the first side and 5-6 minutes for the other side(s) in my oven on a darker baking sheet. Once done, remove from the baking sheet and place on paper towels to absorb any extra oil, taste and sprinkle with extra salt if needed and serve with salsa and/or sour cream.
*After the polenta has chilled in the fridge it can be frozen, either cut into fries or in larger pieces. Just be sure to wrap it with plastic wrap and place it in a freezer bag and use within 3-4 months.[/print_this]