If you have never tried polenta chips, you are seriously missing out. I was introduced to them only recently, and I am completely smitten with them!
The concept behind these chips is incredibly smart. Polenta is a coarse Italian-style cornmeal that is usually prepared as a soft mashed-potato-style side to meat and vegetable dishes. When left to cool, this soft polenta quickly sets and hardens, becoming a solid mass, which isn’t very pleasant to eat. Some brilliant person (wherever you are, I love you oh mastermind) decided to chop this cold, rubbery, unappealing polenta into sticks and deep-fry them till golden and crispy.
The one time I attempted to fry polenta though, it was a MASSIVE mess. I was at a friend’s house, and when we began to fry the chips the oil immediately (and quite violently) spattered EVERYWHERE, and continued to spit and burn my friend and I throughout the ENTIRE COOKING TIME, not to mention covering every last inch of her kitchen with a nice coating of grease. It was quite traumatising, and although the results were delicious, I would honestly never go through that kind of oil battle ever again. Not ever.
Thankfully, I discovered that baking the polenta chips produces equally crunchy and delicious results without any of the mess or scars (both physical and emotional), and with a mere fraction of the oil. Can I get a hallelujah??
Ok then. Time for a visual how-to.
To cook the polenta, you bring a saucepan of water (or stock) to the boil. Once boiling, you rain in the polenta in a steady stream while whisking like this.
Continue to whisk for a couple of minutes till thickened, then remove from heat and mix in some Parmesan cheese, a bit of butter and herbs of choice.
Pour the mixture into a greased square tin, smooth out the top, cover and cool completely in the fridge for at least a couple of hours until set and cold. I like to do this the day before I want to eat them to save time.
When it is completely set, you turn out the polenta block and slice it into thick sticks. You then toss or brush the sticks with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and roast them in a hot oven until beautifully golden and crisp!
Aren’t they just great? They make the perfect accompaniment to soups or to dunk into dips. You can even cut them into smaller cubes and use them instead of croutons in salads or on soups! I’ve also had them sliced into a larger slab and served instead of toast, with poached eggs and roast veggies and pesto. Holy YUM.
A great thing about these as well is that you can prep them up to slicing, then freeze them for crisping up later as needed! Just make sure you layer them in an airtight container separated with layers of parchment paper or freezer bags so that they don’t stick to each other.
Be sure to check out my favourite way to serve them, with my Roast Tomato Soup with Basil Oil, a.k.a “Pizza Soup”.
Yes, you heard me. PIZZA SOUP.
Baked Cheesy Polenta Chips
- 1 l water or stock
- 220 g fine (instant) polenta
- 100 g finely grated Parmesan cheese
- 30 g butter
- 1-2 tbsp dried or fresh herbs, finely chopped if large*
- salt to taste
- olive oil (for roasting)
- Prepare a 20cm (8 inch) square dish or roasting pan by greasing it generously with olive oil. Set aside. If you don’t have a dish this size, any similarly sized square or rectangular dish will work.
- Bring the water/stock to a rolling boil. Once boiling, rain in the polenta in a steady stream, while whisking. Continue to whisk for 2-3 minutes until the mixture thickens. Remove from heat and whisk in the Parmesan cheese, butter and herbs. Have a taste and add salt if needed.
- Pour the polenta into the prepared dish and smooth out the top with a spatula or spoon. Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes, then cover with cling film directly onto the surface of the polenta (see photos) and refrigerate until completely set and cold, at least 2 hours. It can keep like this in the fridge up to 4 days.
- When ready to cook the chips, preheat oven to 210 degrees C (410 F).
- Turn out the block of polenta onto a chopping board and use a large knife to slice it into thick sticks. I like them about 2cm x 10cm (1 inch x 4 inch), but any size will work, so it is up to you!
- Place the chips on a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Drizzle with olive oil and toss gently to coat all sides, or alternatively, use a pastry brush to brush them with the oil if you are worried about breaking them. Arrange them in a single layer on the sheet, sprinkle with a little flaky salt and bake in the oven for 25-35 minutes, or until golden and crispy. The time may vary slightly depending how big you sliced the chips, so check on them for colour as a guide. Serve hot with soup, dips, salads or as a side for meats or eggs!
- You could also add a minced clove of garlic to the polenta if you like.
- After cooling and slicing the polenta, you can keep it in the fridge for up to 4 days, or you could also freeze the chips layered in an airtight container with sheets of baking paper or freezer bags between each layer to keep from sticking to each other.
You can find polenta in all major supermarkets (yes even in Egypt!)