Sunday, April 05, 2009

Polenta "French Toast"...

We whipped through 8 new recipes this week - picking out three favorites was tough, but we nailed it down to those toasty Browned Butter Butterscotch Bars, that Bacon Cheeseburger Pizza and the Campanelle with Roasted Cauliflower, Parsley and Breadcrumbs dish.

*A quick note before we get to the rest of today's post... I won't be putting this up everyday, but every once in a while I'll post a reminder since we have less than a month to go! We just found out about an event on May 2nd to support the Animal Humane Society - Jeff and I have signed up for the 35th annual 5 mile walk that will be taking place and we will be walking as Team Gus in memory of Spike who we lost last year. Any donation small or large would be greatly appreciated - if you would like to support us, please check out our donation site!

You've heard me sing the praises of taking those coarse nuggets of cornmeal and slowly cooking them down into a savory pot of thick, delicious polenta. Have you ever wondered if you could swing it to the sweet side of life? While we've taken steel cut oatmeal, which is typically sweetened, and made it savory before and quite enjoyed that twist, I hoped this Polenta "French Toast" I planned on making for dinner would work out just as well!

While we had this tonight, I did have to do the majority of the work last night, so if you plan on making this, be sure to note all the lengthy times needed during the preparation. To fully develop the cornmeal's flavor, the grain is cooked at a very low temperature for a full hour. Over that hour, you'll want to make sure you stir the pot fairly often as it does have a tendency to sink and want to stick to the bottom of the pot you use. When the hour has passed, the cornmeal will almost be hard to stir as it will be thick enough that a wooden spoon would stand straight up.

Right now, it could go either way between savory and sweet - since we were going away from savory, we added milk, pure maple syrup, our favorite pungent Vietnamese cinnamon, fresh grated nutmeg and the vibrant zest of an orange, along with a combo of dark and golden raisins. The milk, which adds a creamy background, now brings a lot of moisture to the mix that we needed to cook down. You'll need to tack on another 30 minutes or so - this will give extra time for the grains to soak in those essences of sweetness we added and allow the raisins to plump up. After that half hour had passed, we scooped the viscous cornmeal out onto a rimmed baking sheet and spread the mass to an even thickness. This now needs to cool down completely and be left in the refrigerator overnight - while it is spreadable now, by the next day it will have tightened up enough to cut into firm triangles.

Now, that brings us to tonight where I divvied the block of polenta up and dusted each triangle with corn flour. Unlike traditional French toast, there is no dipping in an egg and milk mixture or whatnot as you don't want to add any more moisture - the polenta is already moist enough that the flour will adhere in a thin coating. To finish them off, we slid the dusted triangles onto a hot griddle that I laced the surface with butter and let them heat through to get a light golden crust on each side. This gives you some textural contrast - you'll have some crispness to the outside, while the warm center stays somewhat creamy in nature.

To play off the clean maple already inside the polenta, I served this with a warm drizzle of pure maple syrup on top. Decidedly different, it almost felt like we were indulging in a special treat as we ate through our portions and I loved how just a tiny bit of that oily orange zest was able to make itself known throughout each bite. I do think this would be a great morning dish when you have guests around (and it would also get bonus points for this purpose since most of the work is done ahead of time!) to enjoy this unique take on breakfast.


  1. WOW! Polenta french toast sounds completely fabulous!! I can't wait to try this out. What a great idea.

  2. My husband is a lover of polenta and fruit---I prefer it savory. I cook the polenta with just water and salt, then when it is finished I add some Swiss almond butter (it is unroasted, very smooth and quite runny) this makes the polenta creamy. After spreading the warm polenta on a plate, we cover it with vanilla pudding and top it with sliced fruit.

  3. My mom used to make this when I was a kid. We called it cornmeal mush, but it looks much the same. I like your name better.

  4. Anon - Almond butter is a great tip for a sweet version!

    Terri - Did you have it sliced and toasted like these?