Making these addictive fries using polenta (cooked cornmeal) is super easy. You need to plan ahead to allow the cooked polenta to completely solidify in the fridge — a few hours or overnight. Use as an appetizer or side dish. Polenta is completely gluten-free, and though it’s a traditional Italian food, it goes with any kind of meal. Thanks to Colavita for the quick-cooking, super-smooth Instant Polenta used in this recipe, as well as the fruity olive oil and hot pepper spread we used to embellish the fries. Photos by Evan Atlas.
- 1 cup yellow cornmeal (or quick-cooking polenta)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Olive oil or neutral vegetable oil
- Freshly ground pepper
- Italian herb seasoning, optional
- Marinara sauce, dried tomato tapenade, or hot chile pepper sauce
- Bring 4 cups of water in a large, deep saucepan bring to a rapid simmer.
- Stir in the salt. Turn the heat down to low. Pour the cornmeal in slowly, whisking as you pour it in to make sure no lumps form.
- Simmer over very low heat for 15 to 20 minutes (or, quick-cooking polenta only takes about 3 minutes) Whisk occasionally. The polenta should be smooth and thick. If the polenta is spattering while being cooked, cover with a lid, keeping it ajar.
- When the polenta is done, pour it into a lightly oiled 9 by 13 inch casserole dish and smooth it out as evenly as possible. When it cools off a bit, put the dish in the refrigerator and let it sit for a few hours or overnight.
- Cut the polenta into pieces about 1 inch by 3 inches. You can also do little squares if you prefer.
- To cook in a skillet: This is best done in a skillet that doesn’t stick. Heat some oil, just enough to give your skillet a good coating, but it doesn’t need to be deep. When hot (don’t overheat olive oil if you’re using it, just to medium-high). Arrange the polenta fries in a single layer. You’ll probably need to do two batches.
- Cook over medium heat until crispy on the first side, about 10 minutes, then carefully flip to the other side and cook for 10 minutes longer. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate.
- To bake in the over: Preheat the oven to 425º F. Arrange the polenta fries on a parchment-lined baking sheet in a single layer. Spray with olive oil cooking spray if you’d like them to crisp up nicely. Bake for 20 minutes, then take the pan out for a moment and move the fries around a bit with a spatula to make sure they’re not sticking. Place back in the oven and bake for 20 minutes more, or until nice and crisp on the outside. Remove to a plate.
- Whether you’ve pan-sautéed or baked them, sprinkle with pepper and the optional herb seasoning. Serve at once with any of the sauces suggested.
- If you like polenta, you’ll also enjoy Polenta with a Variety of Toppings