I just had one of the best weekends since I’ve been here in Atlanta! It didn’t have anything to do with where I went or what I ate, but simply because my baby girl came “home” to visit!
It’s been a few months since I saw Gina when she flew up for a weekend in May while Adam and I were staying in Buckhead. This time it felt more “family” and real as she began to decorate her room and helped me in hanging some pictures around the house. While we did get out exploring, shopping and dining, the moments spent smiling and laughing together were those I cherish most. Even the banter between my kids, they are so different in so many ways, had in the past drove me crazy, now felt so comforting. Either it’s that they are getting older or the relocation and distance has caused a change of attitude as I noticed a certain softening between them. Just enough to make me very happy :)
Sunday evening we stayed in to watch the Olympics. We had a busy, long day running around so we just wanted simple and easy finger foods. Sadly my grill stopped working somewhere along the way between packing, two months of storage and the final move so we roasted chicken wings, which actually has always been fine for me and I decided to make polenta fries. I started these early in the day to questionable glances, followed by uncertain inquiries as to whether they would like them.
Gina is always up to trying anything new and after Adam made sure they were healthy, he was good to go. Polenta (yellow cornmeal) is a staple pantry item for me. I keep fine and coarse grind. I’ll use the fine for baking and making creamy polenta. For firm polenta that is chilled, cut and baked or sauted, I prefer the coarse grind as it holds up better.
For the fries I kept the ingredients very simple. Polenta, water and romano cheese. The only oil I used was to coat the baking sheet and drizzle on the top of the “fries”. Using a garlic infused oil will add a touch more flavor.
I know I have a winner when the platter is empty. the fries had a nice crispy “crust” and bite very similar to a fried potato. Marinara was the perfect dipping sauce, homemade or a jarred favorite. For a different twist, more a fork and plate appetizer, I would combine finely chopped green onion, seeded and diced tomato, fresh basil and ricotta salata and sprinkle it over the fries.
1 1/2 cups coarse ground polenta
5 cups water
1/2 cup freshly grated Romano cheese
Kosher salt and freshly black pepper or a seasoning mix of granulated garlic, onion and dried oregano
Garlic infused olive oil or plain
To make the polenta, bring the water to a boil in a large saucepan. When the water comes to a boil, add in about a teaspoon of kosher salt and slowly pour in the polenta whisking as you pour to avoid clumping. Reduce the heat to a simmer and switch to a wooden spoon. Allow the polenta to bubble, but not boil, stirring often. Continue for about 15 minutes until the polenta becomes thick and tender.
Once the polenta is thick, remove from the heat and stir in the Romano cheese. Pour the polenta into a 13×9 inch baking dish that has been lightly oiled. Spread the polenta evenly in the dish, let cool, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm and cold, at least two hours or the day before.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Lightly oil a large baking sheet. Flip the firm polenta onto a cutting board and cut into “fries”. Place the fries on the oiled baking sheet, drizzle oil over the tops and sprinkle on the seasonings. Bake for 20 minutes, turn and bake another 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Serve immediately, using Marinara sauce for dipping. Serves about 4-6.