Polenta is an oft-overlooked side dish that is perfect year round, compliments a wide variety of main courses, and rightfully pushes boring starchy sides like mashed potatoes to the margins.

You're better than instant polenta. Your friends and family and guests are better than instant polenta. Half the cast of My Cousin Vinny was better than instant polenta. So, why would you ruin perfectly good corn meal and bore your main course with it? Because instant is easy?

So is this. Try again. And some patience.

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  • 1 cup Bob's Red Mill Polenta Corn Grits
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. fresh ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Fontina cheese
  • 2 oz. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Heat the olive oil in a large, oven safe sauce pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the shallot and sauté until transluscent, about 2-3 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and add the garlic and kosher salt, sautéing until aromatic, taking care to not let it burn.

Crank the heat up to high and add the chicken stock, bringing it to a boil. Once boiling, pour in the corn meal slowly, continuously whisking as you add it. When it's all in there, throw the pot (and contents, duh) into the oven for 30-40 minutes, stirring about every 10 minutes to ensure no lumps form. Once you've achieved a nice, creamy consistency, remove it from the oven and stir in the salt, pepper, butter and Fontina cheese until everything is melted and incorporated.

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There are several fun ways to serve this creamy cornmeal goodness.

  1. As is! Just spoon onto a plate while hot, create a classic mashed potato dent, and cover with a pork chop or porchetta or short rib ragu.
  2. Grilled or toasted! Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and spoon the hot polenta into it in an even layer. Smooth the top with a spatula, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator to cool and set. Once firm, you can cut it into squares or triangles, sprinkle with grated Parmesan, and toast in the oven or on a grill until slightly browned.
  3. Similarly, you could pour the hot gooey mess into a shallow bowl, smooth the top and cover with plastic wrap before refrigerating. Once set, invert the bowl on a cutting board and you'll have a delicious bouncy dome of polenta to cut into wedges and top with Parmesan before heating.

THEN cover with short rib ragu.

Leftovers keep well and are convenient: top with a bit of mozzarella, pop in a toaster oven, and you've got a side or a snack in an instant.