Well, I guess I’m on a fried food kick as my last recipe was for Panzerotti and today I feel like Polenta Fries. The funny thing is I just met with my cardiologist last week so I’m thinking that this kick may be some sort of a subtle psychological rebellion.
I have no idea where polenta fries fall within the spectrum of Italian and Italian-American food, but they are offered in Italy and often referred to as “bocconcini di polenta fritti;” but I have never see these offered in an Italian-American restaurant. So, in any case, this is polenta and includes Italian cheeses so I am now claiming this for our Italian-American cuisine. And, I do know mine are delicious and I want some today.
I earlier posted about my Polenta and Meatballs, which uses my basic soft polenta recipe. Please read it to get my thoughts on making a great polenta since the method for this recipe is similar but with more polenta and cheese, and a couple additional steps in the preparation. The additional cheese makes the polenta fries firmer and thus hold up better when frying.
As with any fried food, this needs a dipping sauce and amongst my favorites is a lemon tarragon aioli. But of course you may use whatever you like; even a simple Marinara is good with this, but in my opinion, boring.
So if you feel like a fried appetizer or snack, or you just want to give your cardiologist a symbolic “Va’ fa Napoli” with food, then try these Polenta Fries with the Lemon Tarragon Aioli.
As usual, I’d like to hear your thoughts and opinions so feel free to comment.
For polenta fries
- 1¼ cups Yellow cornmeal
- 5 cups Water
- 4 tsp Better Bouillon chicken or vegetable base
- 8 oz Provolone, Fontina Swiss or other melting cheese, grated
- 4 oz Parmigiano plus more for sprinkling
- 2 tsbp Salted butter
- Vegetable oil for frying
For lemon tarragon aioli
- 1 cup Mayonnaise
- 4 tsps Minced tarragon
- 3-4 Garlic cloves, mashed then minced
- 2 tbsp Fresh squeezed lemon juice, or more to taste
- Salt and pepper to taste
For polenta fries
- In a heavy stainless steel 3-quart saucepan add ½ cup cold water and 4 tsps of chicken base and slowly heat while whisking until the base is dissolved, then add the remaining 3½ cups of cold water and whisk a few more seconds.
- Gradually add the cornmeal to the cool stock while continually whisking until all the cornmeal is incorporated. Frequently whisking to make sure the polenta doesn’t stick to the sauce pan and burn, bring the polenta mixture to a boil, and then reduce the heat to maintain a slow simmer.
- Continue cooking and whisking, scraping the inside of the saucepan with a rubber spatula to incorporate any cornmeal that does stick. While cooking, the polenta will bubble and spit.
- Cook for about 15 to 20 minutes and test if it’s done. If while cooking the polenta gets too thick and starts to stick to the bottom of the saucepan, add a little warm water. The polenta is done when it’s very creamy and passes the plate test. Keep in mind that it may take longer depending on the grind of the cornmeal.
- When done add the butter, Provolone and Parmigiano cheese, whisk until the butter and cheese are well incorporated and remove from the heat.
- Pour the polenta into a lightly greased 9×13 inch baking dish or cookie sheet. I like to use a cooking spray for this. Then evenly spread the polenta to about ½ inch thickness and allow it to cool to room temperature. Then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold. Note that you can prepare the polenta to this point up to two days in advance.
- Pour about ½ inch of vegetable oil into a heavy skillet and heat until the oil is hot enough for frying
- Using a sharp knife cut the cold polenta lengthwise into ¾ inch wide strips the lengthwise into 4½-inch long sticks.
- Working in batches, fry the polenta sticks until golden brown and crisp on both sides.
- Remove from the oil and immediately sprinkle with Parmigiano cheese and serve.
For lemon tarragon aioli
- Add all the ingredients into a mixing bowl and whisk together.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste and refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours to allow the flavors to meld. Ideally this should be made a day ahead for optimum flavor.