When I was a child, my mother would dredge slices of cornmeal mush in flour and pan-fry them until they were crispy, and we'd eat it slathered with butter and maple syrup. I thought this was a perfectly ordinary dish well into adulthood until my friends expressed surprise. "A Depression-era dish", some called it.
Well, I don't know if it was specifically a Depression Era dish. It was common in the southern and mid-Atlantic States, but not so much in Michigan. It was also apparently common among Italian immigrants. After all, what is fried cornmeal mush but a kind of polenta? And because it was cheap, it was probably common during the Depression Era, too. All I knew, as a kid, was that this fried cornmeal stuff was fabulously tasty, and I always treated it as a special meal.
In any event, I have very fond memories of cornmeal mush, so when I saw this creamy maple-flavored polenta recipe in Bon Appétit those old memories of cornmeal and maple sryup quickly had my mouth watering and I knew I had to try it. Right Then and There. And since I had a big bowl of blueberries in my fridge, I knew just how I was going dress it up.
It was a good call. The blueberries were divine in the polenta. So divine, that I added another big handful of blueberries after taking the above photo. (Imagine if you will, little explosions of cool blueberry flavor mixing with warm creamy polenta with a hint of maple syrup. Mmmm...)
Diana Morrison's Creamy Maple Polenta
Bon Appétit August 2006
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup water
3 cups whole milk
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp pure maple syrup (I actually added a bit more)
2 Tbsp butter (1/4 a stick)
Whisk cornmeal and water in medium bowl to blend.
Bring milk and salt to a simmer in a heavy, large saucepan over medium-high heat. (A large saucepan with high sides is a plus.)
Gradually add cornmeal mixture, whisking constantly until polenta comes to a boil.
Reduce heat and simmer until polenta is very thick, stirring occasionally. About 10 minutes.
Mix in maple syrup and butter.
Season to taste with pepper.
Serve immediately if you want a mushier polenta, or you can let it stand to set a bit.
Diana recommends it as a side-dish or for breakfast. In spite of the maple syrup, this is not an especially sweet dish. If serving for breakfast, I would add a bit of extra maple syrup to sweeten it up. Blueberries were perfect in this dish, both for the flavor and the beautiful gold and blue combination it made with the polenta (hey, I went to Michigan...). Joe added slices of browned Italian sausage to his, for more protein and a tasty savory combination.