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Cutting polenta into cutlets transforms it from a soothing side dish to a sophisticated main dish that has a firmer texture and a more formal presentation. The preparation time will depend on the type of cornmeal used, so 30 minutes is a middle-of-the-road estimate. Cooked polenta will keep in the refrigerator for 3 or 4 days, so you can make it ahead, pour it out, cover it well, and refrigerate it to use later. Leftover cutlets can be frozen and reheated later. Try serving the cutlets with Italian Stuffed Portabellos and Quick Tomato Sauce for a sumptuous meal.
- 1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
- 2½ cups water
- 1 cup cornmeal
- 1 cup chopped onions
- 1 or 2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
- ½ teaspoon ground fennel seeds
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ cup grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese (optional)
- 1 egg
- ¼ cup milk
- 1 cup herbed bread crumbs*
- Bring the salt and water to a boil.
- Gradually pour in the cornmeal and stir briskly with a whisk until the polenta begins to thicken.
- Lower the heat and simmer, stirring frequently, until the polenta tastes done (see Note).
- * Pulverize stale or lightly toasted whole wheat, sourdough, or French bread in a blender or food processor.
- Mix in ¼ teaspoon of mixed dried herbs, such as basil oregano, thyme, and marjoram, and add a dash of salt and black pepper.
- Meanwhile, sauté the onions, garlic, and fennel in the oil on medium heat for about
- Remove the cooked polenta from the heat.
- Stir in the onions and, if using, the grated cheese; add salt to taste.
- Pour the hot polenta onto an oiled baking tray or 10-inch pie pan to about a ¾-inch thickness.
- Spread evenly with a rubber spatula. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. The polenta
- will thicken as it cools.
- Preheat the oven to 375° and oil a baking sheet.
- In a large bowl, whisk the egg until foamy and then whisk in the milk.
- Place the bread crumbs in a separate shallow bowl. With a table knife, cut the cooled polenta into squares, rectangles, diamonds, or other shapes.
- Line up in order the pan of cutlets, the egg mixture, the bread crumbs, and the oiled baking sheet.
- Lift one cutlet at a time with a spatula and dip it into the egg mixture.
- A light coating of egg is best, so gently shake off the excess.
- Then dip each cutlet in the bowl of bread crumbs and coat well.
- Arrange the breaded cutlets on the baking sheet about an inch apart.
- Bake for 35 minutes until golden brown on both sides, turning once after about 20 minutes.
Variation: To fry the cutlets, heat olive oil about Vf inch deep in a skillet and fry the cutlets for 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Serve the cutlets immediately, or keep in a warm oven until ready to serve.
PER 5-OUNCE SERVING: 163 CALORIES, 4.4 G PROTEIN, 5.5 G FAT, 23.9 G CARBOHYDRATES, 1 G SATURATED FATTY ACIDS, 55.6 MG CHOLESTEROL, 392.6 MG SODIUM, 2.4 G TOTAL DIETARY FIBER