Getting corny... (Daring Cooks August 2012: Cornmeal)

My first exposure to "grits" came as glob of white gritty cereal unceremoniously dumped into a bowl while at summer camp in North Carolina.

I grew up in the Northeast. This wasn't something I had come across before. It was kind of weird.

Most of the other kids that had come to camp with me were a bit repulsed by this, but I soon figured out that if you gave it a health dose of maple syrup and some butter that it wasn't half bad.

It kind of grew on you.

Maybe it was just a case of hunger makes almost anything taste good.

The world may never know.

I should probably 'fess up that I was already a fan of cream of wheat and oatmeal. Yes, at the age of 12, I already had the taste buds of someone several score older.


Frankly, I don't know why someone would prefer a bowl of boxed cereal over a bowl of something warm and comforting.

When this month's Daring Cooks came up as cornmeal, the first thing that came to mind was polenta. But, we were supposed to take this in a different direction, right? Try something new...

From there, my mind drifted to those bowls of syrup laden grits; which naturally led to thoughts of dessert.

I am sure you see the connection there, right? (Don't feel bad - I am not sure how my mind jumped from one to the other either.)

Things went a little crazy from there.

Buttery, creamy polenta laced with maple syrup. Cut into fun animal shapes - just because.

Corn - yes corn - ice cream with generous swirls of raspberry sauce.

Fresh, local peaches poached in simple syrup and vanilla bean.

Topped with a healthy dose of almonds and fresh raspberries.

It probably shouldn't have worked, but it did.

P.S. The corn ice cream upstaged all the other elements and totally stole the show. Such a stage hog.

Firm, Sweetened Polenta

2 cups corn grits (coarse - may also be called polenta)
6 cups water
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 maple syrup
4 Tbs butter

In a large pot, bring six cups of water to a boil. Gradually stir in corn grits and salt. Reduce heat and bring to a simmer. Using a long spoon, stir constantly (or at least fairly often) - cook until mixture becomes fairly thick and grits go from crunchy to creamy. Mixture will "bubble and spurt", so make sure your stirring utensil has a long handle.

Toward the end of the cooking time, stir in butter - 1 Tbs at a time until absorbed. Stir in maple syrup. Reduce heat to low and cook until absorbed and mixture is thickened. Taste for salt and add if needed.

Line a half sheet pan with buttered parchment paper or a Silpat. Pour cooked polenta onto prepared pan and spread into an even layer (does not have to reach end of the pan). Cover with a sheet of parchment paper and allow to cool to room temperature.

Cooled polenta may be cut into pieces and served at room temperature or wrapped tightly and refrigerated for ~2 days. Reheat in a buttered non-stick skillet over medium-low heat or place on the grill.

This post participates in The Daring Cooks. Rachael of pizzarossa was our August 2012 Daring Cook hostess and she challenged us to broaden our knowledge of cornmeal! Rachael provided us with some amazing recipes and encouraged us to hunt down other cornmeal recipes that we’d never tried before – opening our eyes to literally 100s of cuisines and 1000s of new-to-us recipes!


  1. Cher, I don't mind having a plate of this polenta with those mouthwatering raspberries and corn ice cream...mmmmm after a bout of coughing, this would be appetizing for me :) I am recovering and having back my appetite. Thanks for dropping by. I miss FFWD very much...still tired though :( Take care and hugs,

  2. I too was a fan of cooked oatmeal at 12. This is an interesting combination Cher, tough I never tried the corn ice cream I would gladly try this dessert. I wonder what your family thought of it? Love the cute polenta shapes!

  3. I have never tasted grits, but these shaped grits are just so darn cute, I am sure I would love them.

  4. LOVE the cute shapes that you made with the firm sweet polenta, I thought of trying this too, something about great minds.. :-) Great job!

  5. Maple syrup polenta.. hmmm..sounds good to me (lo-o-ove maple syrup). I have to try to make this. Thanks for the idea!

  6. Awesome job! I love polenta, but no one else in my family will touch it with a ten foot pole! LOL. Great job! :)

  7. I've never tasted polenta before -- that looks so darn delicious :D

  8. What an awesome idea... sweet polenta! I will definitely have to try that.

  9. First I read it. Then I pinned it on my Fave Foodie Blogs Board. Then I re-read it. Then I was amazed. The whole idea of it - were they a fish, buffalo and horse?? - was sio clever. I love that. Better, even, then your grilling a galette. You go, Girl. You keep us all on our toes.

    PS - I graduated from Florida State University so my first year as a Freshman, I learned to eat Grits. I love them. With salt and butter. Nothing else.

  10. Oh my gosh, sweetened polenta - what a great idea!! I have got to give this a try!

  11. This looks just amazing! And sweet and delicious and totally what I want to eat right now!!!

  12. Mmmm....I love polenta! This looks super delicious! :)

  13. What cute sweet polenta animals!!! Looks like you had fun. I've eaten grits all my life, but didn't actually start loving them until I added green chile and cheese to them. WOW! You should give it a try! :)

  14. The animal shapes are so cute! And the corn ice cream sounds amazing!

  15. Those are cute animal shapes!

  16. Corn ice cream... wow! A polenta porridge was something my parents would occasionally make in winter, using milk, and we'd stir a (generous) spoonful of jam through it. Yum. Love the idea of maple syrup :)

  17. Corn ice cream ... Totally intriguing. :)

    I love all the things you can do with firm polenta - I don't prepare it nearly often enough. Sweetening it was a great idea!

  18. I loved cream of wheat as a child, glad I'm not the only one! Corn ice cream sounds intriguing, I'm going to have to look for a recipe.

  19. Corn! any chance you will be posting a recipe for it ?
    I think you took on the challenge and make a feast for the eyes and the taaste buds Cher!

  20. I love the polenta animals. I'll bet they loved sharing a plate with corn ice cream.

  21. I love polenta, but I have never ever thought of making animal shapes with it! Nice! Maybe my kids would have given it a go if I did!


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