Easy BAKED POLENTA *
1 cup medium-coarse or coarse cornmeal, if you can find it (I use ordinary cornmeal ~ found near the flour at the grocery store)
3-1/2 to 5 cups water, see notes (I used 4 cups of water here, plus 1 cup of milk)
1 cup milk
1 TB butter or extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. Kosher salt, plus more to taste
Heat the oven to 350°F. Generously spray a 3-qt. casserole dish (or pan) with buttery or olive-oil non-stick cooking spray. Then pour in the cornmeal, water, milk, butter, and salt ~ whisk until blended. (It will separate and look “broken” until it’s baked about halfway, so don’t worry.)
Bake uncovered for 40 minutes. Then stir the polenta ~ taste, and add a little more salt if needed ~ bake for another 10-20 minutes (until it’s as thick as you like it). Remove from the oven, stir again ~ then you can serve it immediately or cover it & keep it warm until you’re ready to serve it.
Makes about 4-6 servings
NOTES: The less water you use, the thicker the polenta will be. If it's very thick and firm, you can even cut it into pieces (with a pizza cutter). Leftover cut pieces can even be fried or grilled another day! You may want to vary the thickness each time you make, depending what you're serving it with ~ and change from extra-virgin olive oil to butter too.
TIP: If you inadvertently bake the polenta COVERED, it will be very watery (I've done that!) ~ so you can stir in about 1/2 cup more cornmeal. Then stick it back into the 350 oven UNCOVERED for another 10 minutes or so, and it should firm up.
VARIATIONS: This is just a BASIC recipe. You can substitute CHICKEN STOCK for the water ~ or CREAM for the MILK. You could substitute an Italian dressing for 1 cup of the water. You could throw some herbs and/or garlic powder in before you bake it. ** You may want to caramelize some onions and/or mushrooms and add them before you bake it **