My first experience with polenta fries was at Fogo de Chao. They're brought out to your table as a side dish, and when everybody around me was scarfing down endless skewers of meat, I was eating plate after plate of polenta fries.
A crispy exterior and golden color, polenta fries may be mistaken for potato fries. That is, until you bite into them. The inside of polenta fries are soft and warm, but the texture is more like grits than flaky potato.
Polenta fries can be a great side dish to your summer grilling menu. The polenta takes very little effort to cook, and you can customize the flavor based on the dried herbs you have on hand. Oregano and cilantro were in my cabinet, but any combination of sage, thyme, rosemary, parsley or basil would work.
Just as French fries are seen with their partner-in-crime, ketchup, I knew I had to try my hand at making my own. This recipe is so easy, all you need is time to let it cook low and slow on your stovetop. The spices I used add a great kick and leave you with something much different than what you'll buy at the grocery store. Since this makes more than what you'll need for your polenta fries, store the rest in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Makes roughly 3 pints
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium red onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tsp mustard powder
- ½ tsp cumin
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp allspice
- ½ tsp cloves
- ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 6 oz can plus 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 28 oz cans whole peeled tomatoes
- 2/3 cup light brown sugar
- 1 tbsp molasses
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 tbsp apple cider vinegar
In a dutch oven or heavy bottomed saucepan, heat olive oil over medium high. Add the diced onion and cook until translucent and soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute.
Mix the mustard powder, cumin, cinnamon, allspice, cloves and cayenne pepper together in a small bowl. Add to the onions and garlic and cook 1 minute, stirring to incorporate.
Add the tomato paste and stir, cooking 1 minute. Pour in the whole peeled tomatoes and remove the pan from the heat. Using an immersion blender, standard blender or food processor, puree the tomato mixture until smooth.
Return the pot to the stove over medium heat and add the light brown sugar, molasses, bay leaves and apple cider vinegar. Stir and simmer over low for 2 hours, or until mixture reduces by half and thickens. You can cover the pot halfway with a lid or let sit uncovered, just don't cover it completely so that it can reduce and thicken up. The sauce will bubble up a bit, so stir it every 10-15 minutes and turn the heat to medium low. Serve, store and enjoy!
Makes up to 3 dozen fries
- 1 cup polenta
- 3 cups water
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried cilantro
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- ¾ tsp salt
In a medium saucepan, add polenta, water, dried oregano, dried cilantro, garlic powder and salt and stir. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Grab a baking sheet and line with parchment paper. Spread the hot polenta evenly on the baking sheet until polenta is about ¼ to ½ inch thick. Put the baking sheet into the refrigerator and cool for 15-20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to broil. Use a pizza cutter and cut the polenta into fries that are about ½ inch wide. Remove the polenta from the baking sheet and re-line it with foil. Add the polenta fries to the foil and spray with cooking spray, then season with salt.
Put the polenta fries into the oven for 15-20 minutes until polenta fries are lightly browned. Serve with homemade ketchup.
Sara Croft is a food adventurer with a passion for creating and a hunger for culinary inspiration. Her recipes have been featured on The Huffington Post's Taste section and Tastespotting.com. You can find out more on Sara, her recipes and her food adventures on her site, SolidGoldEats.com.
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