This Italian-inspired finger food is a great substitute for French fries, in part because it looks just like them! But you don’t need to carry the deception too far. Kids like the tender texture and full, sweet corn flavor of polenta, especially when it can be dipped in tasty homemade ketchup. This recipe scores a high health grade thanks to baking instead of frying. Cornmeal is also an excellent alternative for anyone who can’t eat gluten.
Makes about 60 fries
- Nonstick cooking spray
- 2 qt (2 l) water
- 2 1/4 cups (1 lb/500 g) instant polenta
- 1 cup (8 fl oz/250 ml) whole milk
- 1/2 cup (2 oz/60 g) grated Parmesan cheese
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- Ketchup, homemade (below) or your favorite store-bought, for serving
- Spray a large rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray and line the pan with parchment paper.
- In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the water to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer and slowly add the polenta while whisking constantly. Cook, continuing to whisk, until the polenta has thickened, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the milk, Parmesan, butter, 1 tbsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper and stir with a wooden spoon until thoroughly incorporated and the polenta is smooth.
- Pour the polenta into the center of the prepared baking sheet. Using a rubber spatula, spread it toward one end of the pan, pushing it into the corners and then to the edges, covering about two-thirds of the pan in an even layer. Spray a second piece of parchment with cooking spray and gently press the coated side onto the polenta to level and smooth the surface. Let cool at room temperature until set, about 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Remove the top sheet of parchment and cut the polenta into strips about 1/2 inch (12 mm) wide and 4 inches (10 cm) long. Using a spatula, transfer the strips to a clean rimmed baking sheet, spacing them about 1/2 inch (12 mm) apart. Spray the fries lightly with cooking spray and sprinkle with salt.
- Bake until the fries have developed a crust and the edges are golden, about 30 minutes. Let cool slightly, then serve with the ketchup.
Makes 3 1/2 cups (28 oz/875 g)
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1 can (28 oz/875 g) plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano, with their juices
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 cup (7 oz/220 g) firmly packed golden brown sugar
- 1/2 cup (4 fl oz/125 ml) cider vinegar
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about
- 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and their juices and crush with a fork to release the flavor. Add the tomato paste, brown sugar, vinegar and salt and stir to mix well.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to maintain a very low simmer. Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until very thick, about 1 hour. Stir more often at the end of cooking to prevent scorching.
- Let cool slightly, then transfer the ketchup to a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled and the flavors have developed, about 2 hours, before using. The ketchup will keep, tightly covered in the refrigerator, for up to 3 weeks.
From The Supper Club by Susie Cover, Weldon Owen, 2011