Fries for lunch? Yes! Sliced into sticks and baked till golden perfection is the best way to eat polenta. If you’re bored of the plain old potato fries, yet can’t bring yourself to accept alternatives like zucchini fries, making them out of polenta is an amazing way to enjoy a different take on this creamy cornmeal dish.
This dish starts by making a luscious, creamy polenta that’s chock-full of flavor and a little bit thicker than usual in consistency to help it hold its shape better when baked. The polenta is allowed time to cool and solidify before slicing it up, then baking it to develop a lovely golden crust. But take note not to extend the baking time for too long and to remove it as soon as the underside has achieved the color and crust of your preference. Over-baking will dry out the polenta and the fries will turn dry and chalky, definitely not something you want.
The tomato ketchup made from scratch only complements the fries and brings them to another level. Why buy the sugar and preservative-laden bottled ketchup when you can ingest spoonfuls of this without regret? Best thing is, you can customize it according to your preference. If you’ve always longed for a tomato sauce infused with garlic, blend in a couple cloves of roasted garlic. For extra fragrance, throw in whatever spices and herbs you fancy! Here, we’ve used deseeded red chili to add a little kick without numbing the tongue.
Polenta Fries with Homemade Ketchup
- 1 cup polenta
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary
- ¼ cup grated parmesan
- 2 tbsp salted butter
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp black pepper
- ½ cup canned tomato puree
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1 large red chili
- 1 small red onion
- 1 tbsp sugar
Stream polenta into chicken stock while stirring.
Add the rosemary, garlic powder, pepper and salt.
Remove from heat, immediately add parmesan and butter.
Pour into greased molds and let set in the refrigerator.
Saute the aromatics to make the ketchup.
Add the tomato puree and sugar.
Slice the polenta into sticks.
Brush with olive oil and bake at 180 degrees celsius for 10-15 minutes.
Assemble and serve with the ketchup.
STEP ONE – STREAM POLENTA INTO CHICKEN STOCK
To make polenta, bring chicken stock to a boil on medium-high heat. Slowly stream in the polenta from a height. Keep a steady pace to avoid pouring all the polenta in at once which might create lumps. Stir constantly throughout this process.
STEP TWO – ADD THE SEASONINGS
After 8 minutes or so on medium-high heat, the polenta will become deliciously sticky and creamy just like this. Continue cooking for 3-4 minutes even after it’s reached this stage to ensure there are no grainy bits left. Finely chop the fresh rosemary and add it in, along with the black pepper, garlic powder and salt to taste. Polenta can be quite bland so feel free to add a little extra salt.
STEP THREE – ADD PARMESAN AND BUTTER
Remove from heat. While still hot, add in the grated parmesan and butter. These two additions will bring the entire dish together, making the polenta glossy and flavorful.
STEP FOUR – POUR INTO MOLDS AND LET SET
Pour, or rather, dollop the mixture into greased molds. Use any plate or container you like as long as it’s square or rectangular. If you have clear molds, even better. That way you can see the height of the polenta and you know when to stop. For thinner fries, a height of 1 cm should be sufficient. For thicker wedge-like fries, 1 ½ to 2 cm.
Smoothen the top with an offset spatula or the back of a spoon. Once cooled, put it in the fridge to fully set.
STEP FIVE – SAUTE THE AROMATICS TO MAKE THE KETCHUP
While waiting for the polenta to set, make the ketchup. Mince the garlic, red onion and deseeded red chili. Leave the seeds in if you want the spice. Over medium heat, saute the red onion first in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Once it’s slightly translucent, toss in the garlic and chili and continue sauteing for 4-5 minutes.
STEP SIX – ADD THE TOMATO PUREE
Pour in the tomato puree and continue sauteing for 2 minutes. Add 3 tablespoons of hot water into the can to get all the leftover puree at the sides and pour it into the pan. Add the sugar and saute for 2-3 more minutes until everything is combined.
STEP SEVEN – SLICE THE POLENTA
Remove the polenta from the containers. It should plop out easily without any mess. Slice into your desired lengths of the same size. Using a sharp knife will ensure clean, precise cuts.
STEP EIGHT – BAKE AT 180 DEGREES CELSIUS
Place the polenta fries on a baking tray and brush generously with olive oil. Try not to overcrowd the baking tray or they might not crisp up properly. Bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees celsius for 10-15 minutes or until the underside of the fries are crisp to perfection. Because the polenta dries out easily, there’s no need to bake till the other side is crisp as well.
STEP NINE – ASSEMBLE AND SERVE WITH THE KETCHUP!
If you’re feeling a little fancy, stack them up like so! If not, just serve them alongside the ketchup for a hearty snack.
Many recipes will call for polenta to be made with milk. But honestly, it’s not really necessary at all. Even water alone is sufficient to make a delicious polenta. Milk can make the mixture too thick and cloying and result in a polenta which easily forms a skin when cooled uncovered. For this recipe, we use chicken stock which in my opinion, is the best liquid option to cook polenta with. It results in a light, fluffy texture without compromising on flavor.
These polenta fries should be enjoyed immediately after baking. Once it’s cooled, the texture will be nowhere near as nice as it would be fresh out the oven. As an alternative, you could fry these as well instead of baking.
For more polenta recipes, check out how you can make a simple and savory polenta in the microwave here!