There is nothing more convenient than a meal that can be had two ways. The ‘meal’ I am referring to is Cornmeal. Today the ingredient of choice takes on two extremely different forms. One is smooth and creamy, the other crispy, both delicious. Turn cornmeal is a Jamaican favorite, even though the sentiment is not shared by everyone. I decided to revamp this common steam fish accompaniment and remake it into something less common in Jamaica, polenta fries.
Last August I decided to try frying turn cornmeal just for fun. I had made brown stew fish for my father, with turn cornmeal. If you know anything about turn cornmeal you will know that it hardens to the shape of its container as it cools. As I was slicing off a piece, the thought came to me to fry it to see how it would turn out. How did it turn out? Absolutely delicious needless to say my father loved it (even more so than the turn cornmeal)
Now for the burning question; Why call it turn cornmeal and not just cornmeal, coconut cornmeal, seasoned cornmeal or some other term? As I have said many times, we Jamaicans love to name things by the actions associated with them. And you have to ‘turn’ or mix the cornmeal while cooking it, quite vigorously at times, hence its name. If you cook a large pot of this you need a little bit of extra elbow grease because the cornmeal can get very thick.
Personally I prefer the turn cornmeal with my steam fish, however these polenta fries are bomb with curry chicken or curry goat, curry anything for that matter, the curry gravy is sensational with the crispy cornmeal sticks.
(Printable recipe turn cornmeal)
(Printable recipe polenta fries)
3 tablespoon butter or coconut oil
1 large onion chopped
1 large tomato chopped
½ cup chopped Scallion
1 tablespoon Thyme
1 teaspoon minced Scotch bonnet pepper
3 ½ cups coconut milk
1 tablespoon ground allspice
2 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon salt
2 cloves garlic grated
2 ½ cups cornmeal
- In a large pot on high heat melt the butter or oil
- Sauté the onion, tomato, scallion, thyme and scotch bonnet pepper until they are fragrant and softened
- Add the coconut milk and bring to a boil
- Add allspice, sugar, salt and grated garlic to the milk mixture and stir until dissolved
- Add the cornmeal and immediately begin stirring so that it does not clump up, it will thicken considerably
- Stir until all the cornmeal has absorbed the coconut milk mixture smooth out the top reduce the heat to med/low place a very damp paper towel on the surface of the cornmeal cover and allow it to cook for 10 minutes
- After the 10 minutes stir and check to make sure the cornmeal is not burning. Replace the damp paper towel and continue to cook for another 10 minutes
- After the 20 minutes of total cooking has elapsed give it a final stir, it should be thick but still slightly creamy, serve.
- Follow all the steps above to make turn cornmeal
- After the ‘turn cornmeal’ has cooked immediately transfer it to a glass baking dish spreading and smoothing it out neatly and allow it to completely cool
- Preheat oil to 375 degrees
- Once it has cooled turn it out onto a surface and slice into your desired shapes
- Once the oil is hot place the polenta into the oil and fry until they are golden brown and crispy.
- Make sure to thoroughly mix the cornmeal mixture s that there are no clumps of uncooked cornmeal in the finished product
- You don’t have to fry them all at once, after the cornmeal has cooled and you slice them place them in a zip lock bag and freeze until you are ready to use.
- To fry just heat the oil and place the defrosted or frozen cornmeal sticks in the oil (I have done both, just beware of popping) remove from the oil when golden brown and crispy.
- Cut them in any shape you want, I prefer thicker cut fries
- A good idea is to cool the turn cornmeal overnight and fry them the next day.