This recipe is based on one from Ina Garten, Food TV's "Barefoot Contessa." I took her basic Rosemary Polenta and made my own additions. I'll also tell you that this was the very first time I ever made the dish, after being curious about it for a long time. It came out perfect--that's how easy it is. The only thing you may not have right on hand is parchment paper, which you should use because it makes things a lot simpler. And you need not worry about "authenticity" when it comes to buying the corn meal. It doesn't need to be an expensive import. I used the standard yellow American stone-ground product you can find anywhere. Just one precaution: refrigerate or freeze the the corn meal package after you open it. As with any whole-grain product, the oil in the seed germ can go rancid after a prolonged stay at room temperature in the pantry.
If you're feeding a crowd, the recipe doubles easily.
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1/8 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary leaves
salt and pepper to taste--go easy on the salt
1½ cups chicken stock
1 cup half-and-half
1 cup whole milk
1 cup yellow corn meal
1/4 cup good Parmesan cheese, grated
1/3 cup seeded black olives, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and coarsely chopped
Flour for dredging
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Heat the butter and olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, rosemary, salt and pepper and heat one minute, or just until fragrant. Take care that the garlic doesn't brown. Add the chicken stock, half-and half, and milk and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and slowly sprinkle the corn meal into the hot liquid, stirring constantly, taking care to get into the corners of the pan. Return to low heat, stirring constantly, for two or three minutes or until mixture is thickened and bubbly. Off the heat, stir in the parmesan, olives and tomatoes. Taste for seasoning and adjust, if necessary.
Line a shallow rectangular pan with parchment so that the paper overhangs the edges to form a handle. (Press parchment completely into corners of the pan.) Add the polenta and smooth the top. Refrigerate until cold and firm.
Lift the chilled polenta out of the pan by the parchment and place on a cutting board. Peel off parchment. Cut the polenta into squares, as you would brownies. Dust each square lightly with flour. Heat olive oil and butter in a large sauté pan until shimmering and cook the squares in batches until browned and slightly crunchy on the outside and warmed through, adding more oil and butter as needed. Drain on absorbent paper and serve.