food with sam man­ner­ing

If you’ve ever han­kered after home-made po­lenta fries, but de­cided they’re too much like hard work, think again.

Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - NEWS - Pho­to­graph & Styling/ Sam Man­ner­ing

Aat this time of year I’m in need of com­fort. Of course, po­lenta chips go down pretty darn well no mat­ter what time of year, but in win­ter they should be oblig­a­tory. The Bi­cy­cle Thief restau­rant in Christchurch started my en­thu­si­asm for them years ago. I was very glad to see it re­turn to the city’s post-quake din­ing scene.

Po­lenta chips are all over the place these days; they are a pub food sta­ple and rightly so. My chefs at Home­stead have been beg­ging me to put them on the menu. They are sur­pris­ingly straight­for­ward to make and go down a treat with stew or a good steak, or on their own with a bit of sea salt and an over-gen­er­ous dol­lop of ai­oli.

Make them the day or the morn­ing be­fore you want to eat them, as the mix­ture will need at least an hour in the fridge to set.

PO­LENTA CHIPS

Serves: 4-6 as nib­bles

Prep time: 5 min­utes

Cook time: 10 min­utes, plus sev­eral hours chill­ing

1.4l good chicken or veg­etable stock

50g but­ter

1 clove gar­lic, finely chopped

small hand­ful rose­mary leaves, roughly chopped

500g in­stant po­lenta sea salt and black pep­per, to taste light veg­etable oil, for fry­ing

In a large saucepan over a mod­er­ate heat, com­bine stock, but­ter, gar­lic and rose­mary and let it come to a sim­mer.

While stir­ring with a wooden spoon, pour po­lenta into stock in a thin steady stream un­til com­bined. Bring heat down to low, sea­son well and cook for an­other two min­utes, stir­ring, un­til you have a very thick mix­ture. Taste and sea­son ac­cord­ingly.

Grease and line a shal­low rec­tan­gu­lar bak­ing pan or ceramic dish with bak­ing pa­per. Pour po­lenta mix into the lined dish in an even layer and smooth out. Ideally, you want it to be 2-3cm thick.

Cover with more bak­ing pa­per and re­frig­er­ate for at least two hours.

When it’s time to cook your chips, re­move po­lenta from fridge and care­fully turn slab out onto a chop­ping board. Cut into thick ba­tons about 2-3cm wide and 6-7cm long. Don’t worry too much about uni­for­mity; rus­tic is good.

Place a large fry­ing pan go­ing over a mod­er­ate heat with about two ta­ble­spoons of oil. Fry chips care­fully and in batches un­til golden brown on all sides.

If you want to deep-fry them, bring a saucepan of oil up to a high heat, and then dust the chips in a lit­tle ex­tra po­lenta. Care­fully drop them into the hot oil and fry un­til golden brown.

Re­move and drain on pa­per tow­els. Sprin­kle sea salt over top and serve while chips are still nice and hot.

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