This recipe accompanies the Grilled Polenta, Prosciutto, and Portobello Salad.
Serves 6 to 8 (makes 24 set pieces)
10 cups cold water
1 large dried bay leaf
2 cups coarse ground polenta meal
Freshly ground black pepper
For soft polenta
2 tablespoons butter
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Put 6 cups of cold water, the salt, and the bay leaf into a large heavy stockpot, and bring to a boil. Bring the remaining 4 cups to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the polenta to the large pot in handfuls, whisking constantly until combined. Reduce heat until only a couple of large bubbles appear at a time.
Whisk 2 ladlefuls of simmering water into the polenta and cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon or spatula, until the water has been absorbed, about 5 minutes. Continue to add 2 ladlefuls of water every 5 minutes, stirring often and waiting for it to be absorbed before adding more, until the polenta is creamy and just pulls away from the sides of the pot, about 45 minutes.
If not serving immediately, reduce the heat to the lowest setting, cover the pot, and keep warm until ready to serve (up to 1 hour). Remove the bay leaf and season with salt and pepper.
For soft polenta: Stir in the butter. Top each serving with Parmigiano-Reggiano.
For set polenta: Pour the polenta into a 13X9 inch baking dish. Let stand until no longer steaming, about 10 minutes. Refrigerate, uncovered, until cold and set, about 1 1/2 hours. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve (up to 2 days). Turn out the polenta onto a flat, clean surface. Cut into 1 1/2 by 2 inch rectangles, about 24 pieces.