baked polenta

soft or crunchy, you choose ::::

Despite the lack of a marked temperature difference in the seasons here, autumn still makes me want to prepare for winter hibernation. We do pull out the long pajamas instead of the shorts, and maybe cuddle up with more blankets than in the cool summer nights. Essentially, however, we are utilizing a one-season wardrobe in Northern California.

The hibernation days of most of my youth and much of my adult life are ingrained, triggered by the first yellow-orange leaf I see on the ground. In the Midwest, casseroles abound, and so I give a hip cover and try it here, too. Heidi Swanson from the 101 Cookbooks food blog has her Cornmeal Crunch recipe that just seemed too good to pass up for a polenta freak like me. I traded the long pajamas for shorts when the oven was on, and post-dinner felt cozy enough that I slept in a short-sleeved t-shirt rather than long-sleeved. And I actually kind of wish there might be a little snow this winter. A visit to Tahoe, perhaps?

This is a great dish for a Thanksgiving celebration, if you want to change it up from the traditional potatoes or stuffing. Not that I’m saying to do away with the potatoes or stuffing, that would be Thanksgiving heresy, but another side dish doesn’t hurt if you have a houseful of hungry relatives. You could even prepare the dish the night before, but hold off on baking it until the celebration.

Have a great Thanksgiving this year, America. I may try to eke out another post this week but I since I’m working the day after Thanksgiving (*sad face*), I may be too busy gearing up for either an incredibly slow Friday or a crazy clinic day. At least I’ll have some left over polenta. Well, maybe.


baked polenta
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6-8
  • 1½ cups (medium grind) cornmeal
  • fine grain sea salt
  • 4 cups yellow onion, chopped (about 3 medium)
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • 3 cups water or vegetable broth
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (for softer polenta) or 400 degrees F (for more crunch), racks in the middle.
  2. Butter and flour (or line bottom with parchment paper) one 9 x 12-inch baking dish or tart pan - or roughly this size. I used a glass baking dish, buttered and floured, without any problems.
  3. In a medium bowl combine the corn meal with 1½ cups water and ½ teaspoon salt. Stir and set aside.
  4. To caramelize the onions, heat a splash of olive oil in a large thick-bottomed skillet with a pinch or two of salt. Cook over high heat, stirring and scraping the pan occasionally - more often as the onions begin to get increasingly brown. Continue cooking until the onions collapse and turn deep brown in color. Remove from skillet and set aside.
  5. Bring 1½ cups water (or broth) to a boil in a medium saucepan, add the water and cornmeal mixture, bring back up to a boil and stir until it is thicker than a heavy frosting - about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the cheese and ⅔ of the onions. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan, spreading it to an even thickness, and drizzle with about 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the bottom is golden and the cornmeal begins to pull away from the sides of the pan a bit. Serve topped with the remaining onions (and more grated cheese if you like).


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