Fried Polenta Sticks with Sage
The heartiness of polenta makes it a comforting menu addition when autumn's
chill sets in. The coarse grains develop their characteristic mushiness when
they're mixed with simmering liquid, so reserve some stamina for stirring.
5 cups water
1 tsp. salt, plus salt to taste
1 1/4 cups polenta
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbs. chopped fresh sage
3 Tbs. unsalted butter
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 cups all-purpose flour
Olive oil and safflower oil for deep-frying
Fresh herb sprigs
In a heavy saucepan, bring the water to a boil over high heat and add the 1 tsp.
salt. Slowly add the polenta in a steady stream while whisking constantly.
Continue to whisk until the mixture thickens, about 2 minutes. Switch to a
wooden spoon, reduce the heat to medium and continue to simmer, stirring, until
the polenta pulls away from the sides of the pan, 20 to 25 minutes. Add the
Parmesan, sage and butter and stir to mix well. Season with salt and pepper.
Butter a 9-inch square pan. Pour the hot polenta into the prepared pan and
smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Let cool slightly, then cover and
refrigerate until cold and set, at least 1 hour or for up to 3 days.
Using a sharp knife, cut the polenta into sticks 3 inches long by 1/2 inch wide.
Toss them gently with the flour, dusting lightly.
Position a rack in the upper part of an oven and preheat to 400°F.
Pour equal amounts of the olive and safflower oils into a large, deep fry pan to
a depth of 2 inches. Heat on the stovetop on medium-high heat to 375°F on a
deep-frying thermometer. Add the polenta sticks a few at a time and fry, turning
occasionally with a slotted spoon or tongs, until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes.
Transfer to paper towels to drain, then keep warm in the oven until all are
Arrange the polenta sticks on a warmed platter and season with salt. Garnish
with herb sprigs and serve immediately.
Makes about 50 polenta sticks; serves 8.