When I was growing up, hot cereal usually meant oatmeal or cream of wheat. Oatmeal or cream of wheat meant milk, butter, and brown sugar. Mostly brown sugar. You can imagine my shock and dismay when I moved to Florida as an adult and was handed a bowl of grits. I gave them the usual sweet treatment, and was pretty much horrified.
Now, I know what you’re going to say. It’s what everybody says in the South when you say you don’t like something. “You just ain’t had ’em done right!” Um, no. This is gross.
So went my thinking for several years. I was very certain I didn’t like grits. I’d see people eat them in a more savory preparation, and just couldn’t wrap my brain around the whole thing. Then one day, I had ’em done right. They came as a (savory, garlicky) side dish with a dinner a friend had made, and the light bulb came on. “This is like a runnier version of polenta!”, I exclaimed, to more than one strange look from the dinner crowd. I never looked back.
That said, I’ve realized over the years that, while I DO like grits, I absolutely love the comforting creaminess of polenta, and will eat it as often as I can get away with it. There’s one problem with making it yourself, though. Anybody who’s ever been stirring a pot of the ever-thickening, bubbling, menacing molten deliciousness has felt the napalm-like burn on their hand/forearm that only polenta can deliver.
This method can help avoid that. By stirring only until everything is combined well, and not waiting until it reaches the volcanic-eruption stage, I hope I can save some trips to the cold water from the faucet, and quite possibly some curse words. (Those should be saved for more recreational applications whenever possible.) Simply pop a lid on the pot, turn it down, and let the lid take the abuse.
- 4 cups water, divided
- 1 cup fine cornmeal
- 1 tsp salt (optional)
Bring 3 cups water to a boil (with salt, if using). Stir cornmeal in to remaining 1 cup water until well blended. Stir cornmeal mixture in to boiling water. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook an additional 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add any seasonings (nutritional yeast, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes? Yes, please!). Stir and let sit for a few minutes before serving.