Crispy Lemongrass Polenta is a labor of love. No, don’t worry, this is not going to be another Valentine’s post. This is about a fun side dish, polenta. While polenta is a typical Italian dish, I decided to shake it up and give it Thai flavors. I’ve definitely been on an Asian food kick lately. We do have a fabulous Thai restaurant in the area but we don’t get there very often so I have to cook something to deal with a Thai craving. This is definitely not a traditional Thai recipe. We could call it Italithai or Thaitalian, a fusion of Thai and Italian. This is definitely my favorite way to cook. I love taking something from one country and combining it with something from another country. This can, however, create an epic failure. The first time I tried this, yuck!
If you go to your local grocery store looking for polenta, you may not find it labeled as polenta. Just get yellow cornmeal. I prefer my cornmeal a little coarser. If you happen to find quick cooking polenta, you can us that too. If you happen to be thinking, cornmeal, isn’t that for grits? You would be right. They are pretty much the same thing. The difference is in what liquid you use to cook them. I also tend to see white grits served here in the South rather than yellow. I remember the first time I had grits here in the South. I was at a business breakfast and the person I was with was raving about how much they loved grits. I decided to try them and hated them. Since it was a business meeting, I was trying not to show my huge distaste for them. From that point, I believed I did not like grits or polenta.
Well it turns out, I just didn’t like that particular restaurants grits. I started making polenta at home using yellow cornmeal and realized, this is good food. You just need to add some flavor to them. I really love to serve polenta with a stew. The polenta will absorb some of the gravy and create a delicious spoonful of flavor in your mouth. From there I started making crispy polenta cakes for appetizers at parties. The little polenta cakes create a wonderful serving plate for a topping. The masterpiece, however, is crispy polenta with a stew. Oh my! The browning and crispiness of the polenta walks hand in hand with the gravy from a stew. They are love partners for sure.
Since this dish is not exactly quick, make the polenta the night before. Let it sit in the refrigerator until you are ready to crisp them up for dinner the next day. Then it is just a matter of crisping them in the skillet before serving. I served these with some slow cooked short ribs. I’ll be sharing that recipe in two days. What a fabulous combination the two make. Try Crispy Lemongrass Polenta for yourself. Even if you think you don’t like polenta or grits, you will like these.
- 3 cups water
- 3 strips Lime peel
- 1 tsp Lemongrass paste or 2 inches lemon grass
- 3 Cilantro stems only
- 1/4 jalapeno, deseeded
- 1 ½ tsp. kosher salt
- 1 cup polenta (also known as yellow corn grits) I used Bob’s Red Mill
- 2 tbsp. light butter
- 1 tsp. oil
- In a large pot bring water, lime peel, lemongrass, cilantro stems, jalapeno and salt to a boil. Turn off the heat and let it steep for 15 minutes. Remove the solids.
- Bring water back to a boil.
- Gradually whisk in the polenta and reduce to a simmer.
- Stir frequently and cook for about 15-20 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and add butter. Stir to melt. (Can be served at this point)
- Spray a 8 x 8 inch pan with cooking spray. Pour polenta into the pan, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
- Cut polenta into triangles.
- Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat with oil. Working in batches, fry polenta on one side for about 5 minutes or lightly golden brown. Flip over and fry until other side is golden brown. Repeat with remaining polenta triangles.
Nutritional value per serving: Cal 163/Fat 4 grams/Carbs 27 grams/Fiber 2 grams/Protein 3 grams