Polenta fries with marinara sauce
If you think that French fries are irresistible, just try this baked polenta version. Let the cooked polenta chill and firm for a few hours, and then cut the solidified mass into sticks for baking. Use your imagination for other dips (maybe mayonnaise mixed with pesto?).
Portions: Makes 4 to 6 servings
- Kosher salt
- 1¹⁄2 cups yellow polenta
- ¹⁄2 cup freshly grated Romano cheese
- Extra-virgin olive oil for brushing
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups Marinara Sauce, puréed in a blender or food
- Processor for easier dipping, warmed
Bring 5 cups of water and ³⁄4 teaspoon of salt to a boil in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan over high heat. Whisk in the polenta and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and let cook (it will make bubbles, but not boil or simmer), whisking often to avoid sticking, until the polenta is tender and very thick (it should be stiff enough to support a standing whisk for a few seconds before it falls), about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the Romano cheese. Lightly oil a 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Using an oiled heat- proof spatula, spread the polenta in a smooth, thick layer in the dish. Let cool. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled and firm, about 2 hours, or up to one day. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet. Invert the baking dish and unmold the polenta onto a cutting board. Using an oiled knife, cut the polenta into thirds lengthwise, and then into “fries” about ¹⁄2-inch wide. Transfer to the baking sheet and brush lightly with oil. Bake until underside is golden brown, about 20 minutes. Using a metal spatula, flip the fries and continue baking until crisp and golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper. Heap on a platter and serve hot, with bowls of the marinara sauce for dipping. Use coarsely ground polenta, and not cornmeal or instant polenta, as it chills into a sturdier slab that is better for cutting and baking.