The Baguette Slice is Dead, Long Live Polenta Fritters


If there’s one thing we’ve learned from Top Chef, it’s that the worst thing you can do in life is cook something that’s already been cooked before.

OK, that’s totally a lie and half the excitement of cooking is replicating traditions. But still, it’s always fun to find new ways to consume things. Case in point – appetizers. Back in the land before time, when people served appetizers – cheeses, prosciutto, tapenades and hummus – you only had two options for serving vehicles: slices of bread and crackers. But in today’s food’ed out culture, bread and crackers are the last thing you’d want to serve cheese on. You can do endive leaves, phyllo cups, apple wedges, potato pancake patties, bilinis or homemade pita chips. But the point is, it better not be the same thing the last dinner party used.

Going back to Top Chef for a reference, my favorite moment of last season was when Hung served smoked salmon mousse on cucumber slices, and Padma called it “painfully 80’s.” I had never even seen this serving method before, yet it is apparently a good twenty years passe already. Obviously, there is no reason to be quite so snobby about things, but it does give me reason enough to write about my new favorite food base: polenta fritters.

I started eating these last summer when I was working across the street from Bryant Park, and there was this fancy salad bar place that had them every day (can’t remember the name – anyone?). Anyway, I realized they would be really easy to make at home. You just slice up a roll of polenta (no, I am not making my own polenta yet – but that is next on the agenda). Fry them up in some extra virgin for about five minutes per side, and then pat the oil off with a paper towel. I top ’em with feta cheese (pictured), prosciutto, or tomato slices. It makes for a hearty meal, when cheese and crackers wouldn’t be enough.

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  • Jescel May 28, 2008  

    thanks for adding me to your Foodbuzz friends….. what a coincidence, we had polenta last night and I have some leftovers. Might try this.. never had this before. I saw on TV also Giada de Laurentiis make polenta fries (instead of potatoes).

  • gansie May 28, 2008  

    i’ve never really loved polenta, but have been intrigued with the ease of those tubes. maybe i will pick it up sometime. do you think it would work well with avocado?

  • BS May 28, 2008  

    def on the avocado

  • Maidelitala May 28, 2008  

    I only like polenta when it’s fried, otherwise it is a denser form of grits with a bit too much italian spice.
    let’s talk pita chips: How do you keep them from tasting like burnt cardboard? I like the bagged chips, but really rarely like the homemade ones.

  • Yvo May 28, 2008  

    Where do you get polenta tubes? What section in what supermarket? I’ve been toying with the idea of polenta but most people I know aren’t fond of it.

    Also, funny you say that, I went to this Godiva event a few weeks back and my friend was all “Ooh, guacamole on cucumber slices, I’m always looking for new things to dip in guacamole/hummus/whatever” and then they had… guacamole on *jicama*. I love jicama, and that was definitely a combination I wouldn’t have considered but it was fantastic- the juicy crunch and light sweetnes a perfect foil for the guacamole. The possibilities are endless!

  • BS May 28, 2008  

    ooh – jicama slices – now that’s edgy!
    I got the polenta at the park slope food co-op, I was excited because I know not many stores have it – I believe I’ve bought it as *shudder* whole foods before

  • Maidelitala May 28, 2008  

    youcan get the polenta tubes at whole foods

  • JoeHoya May 28, 2008  

    You can also get the polenta tubes at Tader Joes. And I’m pretty sure I’ve seen them in the refrigerated wall of the produce section at Harris Teeter.

    Kinda surprised the tubes haven’t been dismissed as ‘cheating,’ though…

  • gansie May 28, 2008  

    well, how difficult and time consuming is making polenta? we’re good with people using dried pastas. (or is that not even a relevant analogy?)

  • JoeHoya May 28, 2008  

    Polenta is cornmeal – a very distant cousin to grits. The normal preparation involves cooking it slowly so it absorbs moisture. There are quick-cooking varieties (the equivalent of Minute Rice), but there are also types that cook for hours.

    The tubed version is pre-cooked and basically what you would have if you made the polenta yourself and then wrapped it up in a tube shape before putting it in the refrigerator. It can be a bit crumbly when it comes out of the tube, but it fries and bakes really well.

    Cheating? You be the judge.

  • MonkeyBoy May 28, 2008  

    These look sort of like the arepas you see at NYC street fairs. Those are pretty cheap cornmeal patties and mozzarella but the concept is similar. I like the idea of the salty prosciutto combined with the corn and cheesy flavors.

  • Coonass foodie July 10, 2008  

    Sorry but Polenta is painfully easy to make and delicious when done right all those people who claim to not like it are eating bad polenta most likely made by somone who under cooked it , didnt think it was “sophisticated” enough and dumped loads of dried herbs in to compensate. If my Grandmother saw this she would have a heart attack on the spot polenta is not packed with herbs all it needs is water to boil, milk or cream, butter, good quality Parmegiano and some salt and pepper thats it if you are going to season it further do so sparingly.

  • Coonass foodie July 10, 2008  

    by the way grits and polenta are suprise the same thing not distant cousins the only difference between grits and polenta is how its prepared.

  • Coonass foodie July 10, 2008  

    unless your talking about mominy grits but thats a different topic all together.

  • Coonass foodie July 10, 2008  

    **hominy** might still be misspelled but oh well

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