Cornmeal and Buckwheat Flour Polenta

Polenta Taragna

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • A mound of gray polenta about 16 inches in diameter and 1¾ to 2 inches high, serving

    6 to 8

    persons

Appears in

I encountered dark polenta a great many years ago when my husband, who was then an advertising whiz, invited me to join him in Valtellina, in northern Lombardy, where he was shooting a television commercial. It is not a popular polenta in Venice, where we have long lived, and it had slipped out of mind until I became acquainted with a woman—the same one who gave me the correct procedure for making the risotto with spinach—who was from Sondrio, in Valtellina. As we chatted about the cooking of her region, she rekindled my recollections of polenta taragna’s deep and distinctive flavor.

Ingredients

  • 10 cups water
  • 1 3/4 cups coarse-grained yellow cornmeal
  • 1 3/4 cups buckwheat flour
  • tablespoons salt
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Method

  1. Put the water in a large, heavy pot and bring to a boil over medium high heat.
  2. Mix the cornmeal and the buckwheat flour in a bowl.
  3. Pour a fistful of the cornmeal and flour mixture into the pot in a very thin stream, letting it trickle through nearly closed fingers. You should be able to see some of the cornmeal’s individual grains spilling into the pot. While you pour the mixture, stir it with a whisk, keeping the water always at a boil.
  4. When all the meal and flour mixture is in the pot, begin to stir with a long-handled wooden spoon, stirring continuously and with thoroughness, bringing the mixture up from the bottom and loosening it from the sides of the pot. Continue to stir for 40 to 45 minutes. The meal and flour mush is fully transformed into polenta when it becomes a mass that, when you stir it, pulls cleanly away from the sides of the pot.

No-Standing-and-Stirring Alternative

If you are willing to stand at the stove and stir the polenta the entire time it cooks, you will obtain the best result in terms of texture, fragrance, and overall flavor. It is nonetheless possible to make very good polenta with hardly any stirring. It will take no less time, but it will free you from the stove for the better part of an hour. Proceed as follows:

  1. When all the cornmeal and flour mixture is in the pot, stir with a long-handled wooden spoon for 2 minutes, then cover the pot. Adjust heat so that the water bubbles at a steady, sustained simmer, but not at a full boil.
  2. After 10 minutes, uncover and stir for 1 full minute, then cover again. Step away for 10 minutes, return to stir for 1 minute, then cover, and repeat the procedure twice.
  3. When 40 minutes have elapsed from the time you first poured in the cornmeal and flour, the polenta will need approximately another 5 minutes to shed its grainy texture completely and come together into a single soft, creamy mass. Before you turn off the heat, stir vigorously for about 1 minute, loosening the mass from the sides and bottom of the pot.

Serve the polenta immediately if you want it soft and hot to accompany a runny cheese or a roast or sausages or grilled shrimp or any other dish with which you enjoy loose, warm polenta. If you will use it later grilled, baked, or fried, or in other ways, moisten with cold water a wooden board or steel, marble, or Formica countertop that is at least 24 inches wide and pour the hot polenta over it, spreading it out to a thickness of about 3 inches. Let it cool down until it is firm.

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