Sometimes we [I] get into a rut its side dishes. I go for what is easy, and what I know sells in my house: Mashed potatoes, rice, french fries, tater tots, noodles…you get the idea. I’m willing to bet you have been down a similar path in your house at one point or another too. Every is happy, but it can get kind of boring after a while. I mean the food world is so vast!
I made a recipe one time that called for polenta. I was embarrassed to admit I had never made polenta before. This was only a few years ago. So, I thought, well, let’s give it a try. It doesn’t look hard. It looks delicious. It has to be a WIN!
Well the night I made it for dinner our side-dish world was forever-changed. We ate every last bit of it. Including the kids. They, affectionately, call it “that corn stuff.”
I now serve it in place of mashed potatoes. Not all the time, and not in lieu of a traditional meat & mashed potato meal like my Taco Meatloaf: Weekday Easy!
But I do use it with meals that produce lots of juices. For example, sheet pan dinners full of protein and roasted vegetables, polenta, is a fantastic compliment. It allows for a great comfort food starch we all crave, a spin on the traditional, and a way to soak up all those delicious juices created by roasting meats or veggies.
If you can boil water and stir the contests of a pot you can make creamy polenta. This dish may also be referred to as “Cornmeal Mush,” but I prefer the former for obvious reasons.
I’ll leave the choice up to you.
- 3 Cups Water
- 1 Cup Yellow or White Cornmeal (I used yellow)
- 1 Cup Milk/Half & Half (Any % of milk is fine or combo of milk & cream)
- 1 tsp. Kosher Salt
- 1 Tbs. Buter
- 1 Cup Cheese (I use Colby Jack for this recipe)
- 1 Cup Corn
- Bring the water & salt to a boil
- Add the cornmeal slowly & whisk vigorously. Add the milk after some of the lumps are gone and turn the heat down to a low simmer.
- When the mixture is mostly smooth and starts to thicken add the corn so it can be brought to temperature.
- Once the polenta reaches your desired creaminess turn the heat off and stir in the cheese.
This is what I like mine to look like when it is done. Keep in mind it will become thicker as it cools.
Polenta Add-in options:
- Add any type of cheese you like or have on hand (Remember this is how you can keep diners budget-friendly…use what you already have). Parmesan, sharp cheddar, Swiss, smoked gouda, and pepper jack work well.
- You can also add fresh herbs or spices: Cilantro, parsley, dill, chipotle powder, or smoked paprika kick up this dish to match the flavor profiles of your main course.
- If you don’t have corn, don’t worry. I have made this exact recipe without corn and it is still a hit. You can also add other veggies such as: Hot or Sweet sautéed peppers, green onions, caramelized onions, diced tomatoes, or sautéed mushrooms are some nice options.
I hope dinner just got easier,