One Pot of Polenta: Two Weeknight Meals

Now that we've learned the secret to easy weeknight polenta, we've been making it a lot more often. One pot is really more than enough for dinner, so we usually stretch it into two meals. Besides, something really special has happened to the leftover polenta by the next evening!Polenta is really one of the most amazing foods ever. Right off the stove, it's creamy and thick - like a soft corn pudding. But pour it into a pan, let it chill for a while, and the polenta sets into a solid block that can be sliced and used in all sorts of other ways!

Meal One: Creamy Polenta - On the first night, we'll make a big pot of polenta and serve it up while it's still soft and pudding-like. It's a good base for creamy sauces or a side dish for grilled meat. Try it in any of these dishes:

Fried Egg and Collard Greens Over Polenta
Borlotti Beans in Tomato Sauce with Creamy Polenta
Mushroom Ragout with Spinach Parmesan Polenta
Polenta with Andouille and Broccoli Rabe

Cook the leftover polenta until it's very thick. While it's still warm, pour the polenta into a mold. We often use a sandwich loaf pan or high-sided plastic food storage container. You can also pour the polenta onto a sheet of plastic wrap and roll it into a tube so that it sets in a round sausage shape.

Meal Two: Seared Polenta Slices - On the second night, take the polenta from the fridge and turn it out onto a cutting board. Cut it into thick slices. From there, you can brush the slices with a little olive oil and sear them on the stove top or under the broiler. The pieces will get crunchy on the outside and soft in the middle.

We like to serve slices of seared polenta with a dinner salad, roasted vegetables, or grilled meat. Cut into cubes, this polenta could even work as "croutons" for soups and salads! We've also layered thin slices of polenta into a casserole dish with cheese and veggies, and then baked it until it's crispy and delicious!

What are your favorite things to do with polenta?

Related: Dinner Party Menu: A Polenta Bar!

(Originally published March 16, 2010)

(Images: Sara Remington/Chronicle Books and Breanne)

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