One of the discoveries of my recent Apocalypse Diet was a surfeit of cornmeal. In all I probably had three cups in two jars. With no sugar nor eggs I wasn’t sure I could make anything until a friend suggested polenta. I decided to stop the diet before I was eating only polenta, an unappealing possibility because I’ve had it before and it is definitely a vehicle for sauces and not a tasty dish on its own.
So I looked up polenta recipes. So easy. All that’s needed is water, salt and cornmeal. I was a little incredulous when it said 7 cups of water and 1 2/3 cups of cornmeal. But follow the directions on the first try.
I put the water in the pot with the 1 tbsp of salt. I used coarse grain salt, which might have been a problem. When the water had a nice boil going, the recipe said to sift the cornmeal through your fingers, adding slowly to the constantly boiling water, and whisking the whole time. Unfortunately, this requires three hands. I gave up on the sifting and just poured and whisked. Be warned! The recipe does not mention the geyser like blorps of hot spewing cornmeal. Luckily I jumped out of the reach and had to remove the pot a couple of times to calm it down.
Once all the cornmeal is in you switch to a wooden spoon and stir vigorously for 45 minutes until the cornmeal pulls away from the side of the pot. I probably should have used my Dutch oven instead of the slightly smaller pot because I had some errant morsels escape and burn on the stove.
I stirred, and stirred…and stirred. And then I began to wonder if 7 cups of water was enough. The stuff thickened to a paste, to a mortar, all the while bubbling. You have to stir a lot to get the bubbles to release when it’s that thick. Teamwork would be useful for this seemingly simple process. I think I lasted 20 minutes. My arms were aching, my hands reddened by grasping the thin handle of the wooden spoon. I even had to take my rings off to stir.
After I gave up I prepared for the last stage; pour cold water into a bowl, then throw it out and put the cornmeal in. It makes a great wiggling mound. The alternative is to turn it out on the board but I was afraid of its amorphous properties. It’s interesting to note that I think this would have been a great zombie deterrent. Throw the boiling mass at a lumbering undead thing and it would stick, clog their nostrils and limit their decaying sight.
After 15 minutes I turned the mass out on the counter and it held its mountain of madness shape. There was enough that I sliced it into eights and froze it. For whatever reason the tablespoon of salt was too much. Maybe coarse salt is too strong. When I used it in cooking I didn’t need any salt in the rest of the food. I cleaned the stove immediately and it was hard enough to remove, but putting cold water in the pot, the residue cornmeal removed easily like a skin. If I ate the polenta every day, it would probably last nearly two weeks. Next time, a bigger pot and a catapult for lobbing it at the zombies.