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.
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.
Serves: 4-6 as nibbles
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes, plus several hours chilling
1.4l good chicken or vegetable stock
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.