Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Baked Polenta Fries

It's no secret that I love polenta with much muchness. It's awesome stuff. I love it soft and creamy or crisped up on the stove top. But the first time I tried polenta fries, it was a revelatory experience. It was at a local restaurant during happy hour. They serve it with this delightful gorgonzola butter (which I didn't think I'd like because bleu cheese and I do not generally mix), and the whole thing was divine. The polenta fries were tender but crispy, the way a good fry ought to be.

I knew then that this needed to be in my home cooking repertoire.

But here's the thing. I don't fry things.
I just don't.
I'm not scared of it, per se. I just hate the smell that lingers in the house, and I have no idea what to do with all that oil when I'm done. And it's hard to justify frying things. It just is.

So when I stumbled upon a recipe for BAKED polenta fries over at Oh My Veggies, it was only a matter of time before these happened at my house. The original recipe calls for a flavored log of pre-made polenta. I couldn't find any flavored polenta at my grocery store, so I mixed up my own seasoning of oil with Italian seasoning and garlic powder. I brushed it on the fries before baking, and it was just so yummy.

These polenta fries rounded out a summery meal of Caprese Salad quite nicely. We could not stop munching on these! We dipped them in plain old jarred spaghetti sauce -- it was addicting, like those yummy fried mozzarella sticks, but without the guilt and artery-clogging.

A friend of mine tried it with homemade polenta and told me they turned out well. I'll have to give it a try myself sometime, but until then I love the convenience of using the ready-made polenta from the store. I can keep it on hand in the pantry and have polenta fries pretty much any time I want them.
And I want them all the time now. I bet you will, too.

Baked Polenta Fries

1, 18 oz. log prepared polenta
1/4 c. olive oil
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. Italian seasoning blend (I like Penzey's)
coarse sea salt

Heat oven to 450ยบ.
In a small bowl, combine oil, garlic powder, and Italian seasoning. Set aside.
Cut polenta into 1/2 to 1 inch fry shapes. To do this easily, I cut the log in half lengthwise, then cut each half into about 3 planks, then the planks into strips. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet in one even layer.
Using a pastry brush, brush the polenta with the oil mixture, turn pieces over, and coat the other side.
Bake for 35 - 40 minutes or until golden-brown, turning halfway through cooking time, if desired. (I didn't and it turned out fine, but one side was a bit toastier than the other.) Sprinkle with salt while still hot from the oven.
Serve with dipping sauce of your choice.

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