Crisp Fried Polenta with Oven-Dried Mediterranean Salad


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


    as a main course

Appears in

Cooking One on One

Cooking One on One

By John Ash

Published 2004

  • About

This is a template for a neat main course that is infinitely variable. Polenta, the Italian “grits,” or cornmeal mush,” is cooked ahead, then chilled until firm. At serving time, its sliced into portions, sautéed, and topped with an intensely flavorful mélange (that means mixture) featuring oven-dried vegetables.

I like my polenta with a little texture, so I cook it for a much shorter period than is traditionally called for. For a smoother, traditional polenta, cook it in a double boiler over simmering water for an hour or so, stirring every 10 minutes.


  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ cup finely chopped shallots or green onions (white parts only)
  • ½ cup dry light- or medium-bodied white wine
  • cups homemade chicken or vegetable stock or your favorite canned broth
  • ¾ cup coarse polenta cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Oven-Dried Mediterranean Salad


Lightly Oil a baking sheet or 8-inch cake pan and set it aside. Heat 1 tablespoon of the butter in a deep saucepan and add the shallots or onions. Sauté over medium heat until softened but not brown, about 3 minutes. Add the wine and stock and bring to a boil. Stir in the polenta meal until the mixture begins to thicken and then reduce the heat to low and stir regularly until the mixture is very thick, 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in the basil and cheese, and taste and season with salt and pepper. Pour the polenta onto the baking sheet or cake pan and, using a spatula or wet hands, smooth and even it out until it is about ½ inch thick. Chill in the refrigerator until firm. The polenta can be made ahead and stored covered in the refrigerator for a couple of days.

Cut the polenta into 4 pieces and heat the remaining butter and the olive oil in a large sauté pan. Brown the polenta over medium-high heat until crispy on both sides, about 5 minutes total. Place the polenta on serving plates and top with the salad and shavings of Parmesan or a dollop of crème fraîche and baby greens, if desired.


If you like with shaved Parmesan or crème fraîche and baby arugula or mustard greens