Cornmeal used to be relegated to the kitchen cupboard broken out only for porridge, dumplings and occasionally for baked goods. However, cornmeal is such a versatile and underutilized grain as it has so many other uses. In the United States, Southern Chefs use it as a coating for many fried foods. Cornmeal provides a welcomed crunch to many different fried and baked dishes such as fish, chicken even okra.
Cornmeal - a ground dried corn can be white, yellow, blue or red, depending on the color of the corn used, and can be ground coarse, medium or fine. Internationally cornmeal has been showcased as a side dish and has even appeared as the main course.
Did you know that...
In Mexico, hominy is ground to make masa, the dough for corn tortillas and tamales, and also for masa harina, a finely ground corn flour. In Salvador, cooks love pupusas, which resemble thick corn tortillas that are sometimes enclosed with cheese, meat or vegetable fillings. Similarly, in Venezuela and Colombia they make a flat corn cake that is split and stuffed called arepas. Italian cooking has given birth to Polenta which is a very refined variation of what Jamaicans like to call "turned cornmeal". Polenta can be served rolled, in squares, in triangles, creamy, fried, sautéed and baked.
With the cost of food slipping the way it is I love the fact that cornmeal is so versatile. It’s a kitchen staple getting its time to shine. It’s a low budget wonder and little can go a long way. It can be prepared quickly and easily and still be tasty, nutritious and very filling. Cornmeal can take many forms it can be a comforting bowl of cornmeal porridge, nostalgic piece of cornmeal pudding warm out of the oven, or a chic plate of creamy polenta with oxtail ragout. The real question is, can it bring out the foodie in you?
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