Baked Polenta Fries with Queso
I made these crispy little baked polenta fries one day for lunch. Later in the day somebody asked what I did that day and I replied with a casual, “Not much!”
What I thought was: “I ATE ALL OF THEM.”
It’s true. I didn’t share. Heck… I didn’t even invite anybody. It’s definitely a recipe for more than one, but I’m not a quitter.
I get that it might be a hard sell to make polenta and then make fries out of that polenta, but I just want you to bookmark these (or pin ’em, yum ’em, etc.) The next time you are making grits or polenta, just make more and know that you’ll be making these with the leftovers.
Of course, you can make polenta just to make these. I did and I regret NOTHING.
1) Bring water to a simmer in a large pot with salt. Once simmering, whisk in corn meal.
2) Cook polenta, stirring regularly over low heat, until polenta is thick and has a soft bite to it. You might need to add a bit more water if it gets too thick. It should take 15-20 minutes to cook.
3) Let polenta cool for a minute and then pour polenta out onto a baking sheet lined with plastic wrap. Spread polenta out into a thin (1/4-inch thick) layer. Chill for at least an hour or overnight until polenta is completely set up.
1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Cut chilled polenta into long fries, about 2-3 inches long. Lay out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, leaving a little room between each fry. Drizzle fries well with olive oil and season with salt and chili powder.
2) Bake fries for 20 minutes, then flip, and bake for another 20 minutes. You can keep baking these if you want them even crispier. It’s hard to over-cook them!
1) Melt butter in a small pot over medium-low heat. Whisk in flour and cook for a few minutes until the roux turns a tan color.
2) Whisk in milk slowly until mixture is like a light gravy. Then whisk in grated cheese. Season with salt and pepper and keep queso warm over very low heat until fries are done.
Serve polenta fries drizzled with queso or use it as a dip!
Baked Polenta Fries
This recipe falls into that double-cook category of recipes. It can be a tough sell for people because you basically have to cook the polenta twice. It’s not that it’s hard to do, it just takes a tiny amount of planning!
It all starts with good polenta. I like to use a coarse corn meal.
You can cook polenta in water, stock, or milk. I like to use milk and butter when I’m making a really rich grits. Sometimes I’ll use stock if I have some good homemade stock around, but honestly it’s fine to just use water with a big pinch of salt.
Bring the water to a simmer and whisk in the polenta. It’s really important to whisk it in because it’ll clump like crazy otherwise.
It’s tough to give a really accurate cooking time for polenta. If you’re simmering it slowly, it should take around 20 minutes to get soft and thick. During this time you might need to whisk in more water if it gets too thick. You kind of just have to watch it and use your best judgment.
When the polenta is cooked, let it cool a bit and then spread it out in a thin layer on a baking sheet lined with plastic wrap.
Making the Fries
Once your polenta is cooked and spread out, it has to cool. Honestly, I just let it sit overnight but it would probably set up fine after an hour or two in the fridge if you were in a rush. Again, this is why this recipe is really great for leftovers.
When you’re ready though, peel your polenta off the plastic wrap and cut into thin strips.
Lay these out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle them with a heavy glug of olive oil and season them with salt and chili powder.
These will need to bake for 30-40 minutes to get nice and crispy. Use that time to make some queso!
Okay… the queso really only takes 10 minutes to make so you can also do laundry or something?
Anyway, just whisk the butter and flour together over medium-low heat to form a roux. Then whisk in the milk and cheese! Season it with salt and pepper and you’re ready to go.
Polenta is a sturdy subject and it can take a lot of cooking. Don’t worry about overcooking these guys. They will just get crispier and crispier.
I like to bake mine for about 20 minutes, then flip them and bake for another 15-20 minutes.
You can go longer, but that should get you there.
Ideally you can hold up a fry and it will stay nice and straight. In other words, it’s crispy and can be dipped in delicious queso.
Because I wasn’t intending to share these, I just drizzled my queso over the whole mess of polenta fries and put my phone on do not disturb.
Make polenta (or grits). Make more than you need. Then make these.