Okay, I’m going to be honest with you. The first recipe is pretty easy, but the variations are a lot of work. For some people they won’t be worth the time it takes to prepare them. That’s okay. You can buy prepackaged polenta in the supermarket. It will cost you $3 or $4 for 30¢ worth of food, but if you don’t have the time, then assumedly you work plenty hard and can afford to pay 10 to 15-times as much as necessary for one of the world’s most basic foods. I’ll privately snicker at you behind your back, but you go ahead and do what you need to do.
Cornmeal mush is a great hot cereal for breakfast, but it can also be served for lunch or supper, especially if you try one of the variations where it’s fried. For a quick lunch top a bowl of cornmeal mush with canned spaghetti sauce and some chopped onions or bacon bits and eat with a spoon. This is called Italian Polenta and my oldest son likes it so much he makes it for himself when there’s nothing else to eat.
Cornmeal mush can be topped with any sauce that you would normally serve over pasta. It costs about 1/10th as much as gluten free pasta, so it’s far more economical. Simply spoon the mush into a bowl and then pour your preferred sauce overtop. For a fancier presentation, pour the mush into a deep platter and then spoon the sauce overtop. Place in the center of the table and serve with a large serving spoon. Make no apologies because this is good food.
Cornmeal Mush & More
(scroll down for fried mush and cornmeal cutlets)
- 1 cup cornmeal
- 1 cup cold tap water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 cups hot tap water
- Optional: 1 or 2-tablespoons dairy free margarine
In a small bowl, combine the cornmeal and cold tap water. Meanwhile, in a 2-quart pan, combine the salt and hot water. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. While the water is heating, add the cornmeal mixed with the cold water.
Combining the cornmeal with cool water before adding it to the boiling water keeps the cornmeal from lumping up when it hits the hot water. If you prefer, you can bring all 4-cups of water to a boil and then stir in the cornmeal with a whisk. Whisk briskly to eliminate any lumps.
Add the margarine if you’re using it.
When the water and cornmeal boil, reduce the heat to low. Allow the mush to simmer for at least 10-minutes, or until nicely thickened. You can simmer it for up to 30 minutes if you have the time and inclination. Keep the heat low after it thickens so it won’t burn to the bottom of your pan.
If your cornmeal is less than fresh, you may add a teaspoon of sugar to make it taste fresher and sweeter.
When the cornmeal mush is thick it’s ready to serve. Simply spoon it into bowls and eat it with a spoon.
This is very hearty for breakfast, and also makes a nice snack in the middle of the day. I like it with a little margarine or a sprinkle of dairy-free cheese, but it is equally good with sugar or molasses and soymilk.
This recipe serves 4 to 6 people depending on how hungry they are. Of all the breakfast cereals you can buy, this one is the least expensive. We try to have it at least once a week, more often when times are hard.
Fried Mush, aka Fried Polenta
Prepare cornmeal mush as directed above. When it’s thick pour into a 9 by 13-inch pan that has been coated lightly with no-stick spray or vegetable oil. Allow the mush to chill overnight or for several hours.
The next day cut the mush into 12 equal pieces. They will be a little bit fragile so don’t be too rough with them. Place about 1/3-cup rice flour or cornstarch or soybean flour on a large plate. Put 1 rectangle of mush on the plate and dust it with flour on both sides. Set aside. Continue until all of the rectangles are coated with flour, adding more flour to your plate if necessary.
Heat about 2-tablespoon dairy-free margarine or other fat in a large skillet or griddle. When it’s very hot, almost smoking, lay in as many rectangles as will comfortably fit without overcrowding. Fry until the underside is crispy and golden brown. Carefully flip the rectangles and continue frying until the second side is golden brown. Remove the fried mush and keep warm on a serving platter. Continue until all of the mush is fried and brown. Serve hot with pancake syrup or any type of savory gravy. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
This is the most complicated and also the most popular version of fried mush.
- Pour your prepared cornmeal mush into a 9 by 13-inch pan as directed in the previous recipe. Allow it to chill for several hours or overnight.
- When you are ready to cook it, cut the pan of mush into 12 even pieces.
- In a wide, shallow bowl combine 1/4-cup soymilk with 2-eggs. Beat until well mixed.
- On a large plate put about 1/2-cup of rice flour or a combination of rice flour and cornstarch.
- One at a time, coat the mush rectangles with a light dusting of flour.
- When all of the pieces have been coated with flour it’s time to dip them in the egg. Plop a floured rectangle into the egg mixture and then flip it over so it’s evenly coated. Some of the flour may wash off; that’s okay.
- Gently lift the mush and allow the egg to drain off. Plop it back into the plate of flour and coat it generously, until it’s evenly covered.
- Place the coated rectangle on a large platter. Continue until all of the mush is coated with both egg and a second coating of flour. Add more flour to the plate as necessary.
- Now you have some options. If you want to serve the mush later in the day, like to accompany dinner, then they can be covered with plastic wrap and chilled for several hours or even overnight.
- If you want them for breakfast in the morning the best way to do it is to boil the mush while you’re making breakfast or lunch today. Then turn them into the baking pan to chill. That evening, after dinner, while you’re doing up the dishes before bed, cut and coat the cutlets, then place in the fridge until morning.
- If you want them for dinner then boil the mush in the morning and coat the rectangles after lunch. Then the cutlets will have time to chill and the coating will have time to set before dinner.
- Or, you can fry them right away without chilling. They need a little more care when turning so the coating won’t fall off, but it’s not all that difficult.
- To Cook, heat about 1/4-cup of margarine or other fat in large skillet or griddle. Arrange a few cornmeal cutlets in the hot fat without crowding. Fry until golden brown underneath then flip and brown the remaining side. The heat should be high enough to brown the cutlets quickly, perhaps 2 to 3 minutes per side. Continue until all of the cutlets are fried.
How To Serve Fried Mush
Either version of fried mush can be served the same way.
First off it’s good for breakfast with pancake syrup and margarine or applesauce or fried apples or jelly. They are cheaper than French Toast or Pancakes and more filling too.
For a savory dish consider topping the hot fried mush with onions that have been fried in dairy-free margarine or other fat, and perhaps a little dairy-free if you have any. Another option is Italian or Creole tomato sauce. You could prepare a basic white sauce and enhance it with leftover vegetables or meat. This is quite good. Actually any sauce you would serve over pasta or rice is equally good over fried mush.
Fried Mush takes a little work to prepare, it’s not as easy as opening a can and heating till boiling. It’s so cheap though and makes a dish that the family actually looks forward to instead of lamenting “Oh no, not fried mush again.” This alone is reason to give it a try. One last tip, if your family is likely to object to the term “Fried Mush” then call them “Cornmeal Cutlets” or Polenta instead. Both of these names evoke more family interest than plain old Fried Mush.