It's really no more than cooked cornmeal ― grits if you're in the South. But take just one taste, and it's easy to understand why polenta is so admired. The nutty, slightly sweet corn flavor, luscious with melted cheese, is the perfect complement to hearty stews and ragouts.
The traditional method of cooking polenta calls for at least 45 minutes of simmering with constant stirring ― a labor of love. But, if your heart isn't into that kind of commitment, and you still crave polenta, ready-made is the answer. Cooked polenta is sold plain or seasoned, usually in plastic-wrapped logs or blocks.
The sturdy texture makes it easy to slice. To make individual gratin casseroles, drench oven-heated polenta slices with a lightning-quick tomato-porcini mushroom sauce, then top with cheese and slip under the broiler. For other uses for ready-made polenta, check at right.
MORE QUICK TRICKS WITH COOKED POLENTA