Creamy, Cheesy Grits…er, Polenta

I remember Mom making cornmeal mush a couple of times when I was a child, and I remember liking it. When we (Tony and I) lived in the South, I could not have been less interested in grits. Grits just sound unappetizing, to say the least. Then we moved Up North, and one day I had  polenta at a local Cajun restaurant, as part of a daily feature. The outside was lightly crispy, and the inside was tender and somehow creamy.

And that’s when I learned that grits and mush and polenta are all pretty much the same thing.That’s also when I learned that it’s delicious. It can be dressed up, or dressed down. It can be creamy like oatmeal, or cooled and used in a multitude of ways – sweet or savory. Plus, it has the additional bonus of being cheap and easy. If you’re not into creamy and cheesy, these can even be made vegetarian or vegan in a snap.

We’ve been into this creamy, thick-mashed-potato-y preparation lately. If you’re new to cooked cornmeal, I recommend trying these as a side first, but we frequently load them down with veggies and call it a meal 😉 Obviously, in Spring there is simply no better way to enjoy them than with asparagus and morels.

Ingredients

1 cup dry cornmeal (I prefer yellow)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
2 cups (1 14-oz can) chicken stock
1 cup mozzarella/provolone blend, shredded
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1 teaspoon ground mustard
OPTIONAL-
1 bundle asparagus
1 large handful mushrooms (6 or 8 ounces if store-bought)

Directions

In a medium sauce pan, heat chicken stock and 1 cup heavy cream over medium heat until boiling. Meanwhile, steam asparagus until crisp-tender, and saute mushrooms (we used our just-found morels) in butter (I always add salt and garlic, but make them to your preference). Set both aside. Mix together cornmeal, milk, salt, poultry seasoning, and ground mustard. Once cream and stock is boiling, pour in cornmeal mixture. Whisk the whole concoction slowly, making sure to break up any clumps. It will thicken pretty quickly. Stir in cheese until melted, and then slowly add extra cream until incorporated. Remove from heat, and add any extras – in this case asparagus and morels. You can also stir in more milk/cream to make it creamier if you like.

Enjoy! (Also – Happy Easter!)

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10 thoughts on “Creamy, Cheesy Grits…er, Polenta

  1. Looks tasty, especially with the mushrooms. I may have to rant about the difference between grits and polenta on my site…sometimes it gets so frustrating when trying to figure out what food is what…grits/polenta, sweet potato/yam, cantaloupe/musk mellon, etc.

    • The mushrooms make this special, but morels are close to my heart. We love this for brunch just with asparagus.
      If you rant, I would love to read it. I think for most people the differences between grits and polenta are going to come down to very minor differences – especially if new to the food.

  2. Hey hon, This looks very yummy! when I make “mush”, I use the tube found in the refrigerator section at the grocery. Is that what you used?

    • No – I use the plain ole dried cornmeal. Quaker Oats makes a small container…which I have kept and refilled from a 5-lb sack of it. The “mush” you get is probably just cornmeal cooked in water…this will taste much better (but not be better for you)!

  3. mmmmm…..loving the look of this, although I can’t eat heavy cream (gall bladderish problem). Quite often I buy a tube of polenta at the co-op and make a sauce for it. Morels will be the ticket next time, Heather!

    • I think this would still be good with skim milk, though I’m not sure about other milk replacements which tend to be a little on the sweet side to me. I suppose those would be great if you were serving this for breakfast though. Can’t go wrong with morels!

  4. And Heather, just for the record, when we had “mush” here, I did it Shari’s way….lol..My Mom did it the way you do, and I am gonna try it one day just for poo and giggles….

    • For shame! And here I was just bragging about your homemade potato salad prowess on someone else’s blog! I guess I didn’t make any claims about how extensively homemade your mush was…
      You should try it this way – you can use all kinds of ingredients and actually give it some flavor. I see garlic and onions in your future 😉
      [Tony adds: “Or peppers”]

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