Polenta of the gods


To spare you another dissertation on why I love Patricia Wells’ The Paris Cookbook, I will instead refer you to my first post on the book, and get right to the heart of the matter.  This polenta is sinfully, sinfully delicious.  Why then do I call it “polenta of the gods” rather than “Satan’s cornmeal”?  Because this is a dish I would think is a staple on heaven’s divine menu.  It is laden with rich cheeses and luxuriously melts in your mouth.  The reduced chicken stock, provided you use real, homemade, quality stuff, is the perfect flourish — adding both depth of flavor and visual interest to a side dish that often goes overlooked.

Easy Polenta RJ and I served this with a simple pan-roasted chicken breast and these caramelized shallots and it was all divine.  I can see this as a special occasion side dish (too rich for every day, but quick and easy enough to do on a weeknight for guests) to accompany braised meats, or with a mix grill of sorts.  Just be warned about two things: 1) this is not a light and airy side dish – it is silky smooth but also dense with cheese and 2) use the best ingredients you can find – homemade chicken stock (or really good store-bought) and artisinal cheese such as Abbaye de Bel’loc or good Manchego since this is a simple and straightforward dish, the quality of the parts equal the quality of the whole.

Helene’s “Polenta” with Sheep’s Milk Cheese, from Patricia Wells’ The Paris Cookbook
(Yield 4 servings)

3 2/3 c. Homemade Chicken Stock, or more as needed
3/4 c. corn flour or fine-grain yellow cornmeal
7 oz. French Basque sheep’s milk cheese, freshly grated (2 1/2 cups)
8 oz. mascarpone cheese

Reduce the chicken stock: in a 6-quart saucepan, bring 2 cups of the stock to a boil over high heat. (Make sure you use a large saucepan, to prevent the stock from boiling over.) Boil until the mixture is thick and syrupy, reduced to about 1/2 cup, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer the liquid to the top of a double boiler, set it over simmering water, cover, and keep warm.

In a large, heavy saucepan, combine the cornmeal and the remaining 1 2/3 cups chicken stock. Stir with a wooden spoon to blend. Cook the mixture over high heat, stirring, until it is thickened and leaves the side of the pan as it is stirred, about 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, add both cheeses, and stir to blend. Cook, stirring to melt the cheeses and thoroughly combine the mixture, about 2 minutes more. The mixture should be soft and pourable. (If it is not, thin it out with additional chicken stock.)

Pour the mixture into warmed shallow soup bowls. Drizzle with the reduced chicken stock, and serve.
Polenta plated


  1. KK Millet says:

    Recipe to follow… I was running out the door to work today and realized I forgot to post it! Will do tonight…

  2. Cheryl Byrne says:

    Made this the other night with roast chicken–man oh man was it delicious. Thanks Katherine!

  3. KK Millet says:

    I love hearing that, Cheryl! I have recently begun working polenta into the regular side-dish rotation here, and RJ seems to like it, especially when loaded with cheese as in this recipe!

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