Polenta! I think of it as the neglected side dish. Sure, potatoes and pasta and rice are all wonderful in their ways, but they get all the love and attention, side dish-wise, and that poor old box of cornmeal sits neglected on the shelf day after day…so here I am to speak up for polenta in all its easy, creamy, dreamy wonderfulness. Basic polenta is a snap to make, and this time of year you can take it to a whole new level with a couple of ears of the gorgeous Jersey corn that is everywhere, along with a handful of fresh herbs. Here’s the basic drill: grab that lonely box of cornmeal (you can use any old kind, just make sure it’s the fine-ground kind. Otherwise you will be making grits, which are also wonderful, but we’re after polenta here!). Boil up some water mixed with milk, and whisk, whisk, whisk in the cornmeal. You’ll want to stir it for about five minutes until it is smooth and creamy. Now comes the part that takes it from good to great: toss in about one cup of fresh corn kernels, some butter and a handful of grated Parmesan cheese. A little salt and pepper to taste, and finally, about a tablespoon of fresh thyme.
Now THAT’S a side dish…move on over, mashed potatoes. The polenta is in town!
Polenta with Corn and Thyme
1 cup whole milk
1 1/2 cup water
1/2 cup fine cornmeal
1 cup fresh corn kernels
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Coarse salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
1. Bring milk and water to a boil in medium pot. Pour cornmeal into pot in a slow steady stream, whisking briskly. Whisk until mixture is smooth and creamy, about 5 minutes.
2. Add in corn, butter and cheese and stir for one more minute. Season to taste. Stir in thyme and serve immediately.
Kate Morgan Jackson is an editor, photographer, and writer. Her cooking and photography blog, Framed Cooks, is a collection of recipes and pictures designed for the busy cook, and her posts have been featured on a variety of sites including Glamour, Saveur, The Pioneer Woman, Steamy Kitchen, The Kitchn and Design Crush. She is a natural light photographer who specializes in portraits of children, animals and of course food of all kinds. Kate is a long-time resident of New Jersey, currently residing with her husband, daughter and rescued redbone coonhound in Upper Saddle River.