Smoked tomato pimento cheese polenta. I think I’ve whispered those words 20 days since I made this dish, smiling and remembering. Without a doubt, this was one of the best tasting sides I’ve ever had. Just a hint of smokiness from the smoked tomatoes and tons of cheesy creaminess. And polenta, my favorite thing no matter what it is mixed with. This makes a big huge batch of polenta, but you’ll find you won’t have any trouble making it disappear. This is a fantastic recipe, one we’ll be making time and time again.
I like my polenta very creamy and a little on the thin side. As opposed to thick and dense. You can cook your smoked tomato pimento cheese polenta a little longer than I did if you want yours thicker. If you get it too thick, stir in a bit more cream to thin it. When reheating polenta I stir in a bit more cream to get it back to it’s original wonderfully creamy state.
I prefer to use fruit or nut woods when I smoke unless I want a heavier smoke flavor. Pecan, apple or cherry are my favorites.
As much as I love making and devouring mashed potatoes with pot roast and gravy, I love grits even more. The creamy ground corn has more texture and more flavor. At least, in my opinion. Add some cheese (and a little bit of Ranch dressing mix) and well, these cheddar Ranch grits are the perfect tasting side dish and very, very easy to make.
You can substitute any good melting cheese you want to these cheddar Ranch grits. I like a nice sharp cheddar because I think it goes perfectly with the corn flavors and the Ranch dressing. I think Monterey jack would also work well in this dish. For some kick, go with pepperjack and add a few chopped roasted jalapenos. Or chile peppers. You can also add drained copped pimentos.
I highly recommend that you shred or grate your own cheese at home. Don’t buy the pre-shredded or pre-grated stuff. It has stuff added to it to keep it from sticking together. That ‘stuff’ affects how the cheese melts. Shred it yourself and use the good stuff.
Also try my roasted sweet corn grits. I always keep grits on hand. They’re the perfect side dish for just about any meal.
Some folks don’t really care for polenta. I think it is one of the best (and easiest) things to make. What’s not to like about great corn flavor, with cheese and butter? This hot Italian sausage with fresh corn polenta dish has a great combination of creamy corn smoothness and the heat and juiciness of sausages.
So is there a difference between polenta and grits? Apparently, yes, but there are lots of thoughts on the subject. I usually use cornmeal, and for dishes like this one, I prefer a coarser variety when I can find it.
3cupscorn kernelsabout 2 cans if you don’t have fresh on hand
½cupParmigiano-Reggiano cheesefreshly grated, plus more for shaving
12linkshot Italian sausage
Bring 7 cups of water to boil in a large pot. Add salt.
While whisking the water, slowly pour in the cornmeal. Keep whisking until the mixture begins to thicken, about 3-4 minutes.
Reduce the heat to medium low and let the cornmeal cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. If the mixture gets too thick, add just a bit of hot water, stir, and add more water in small quantities if needed.
Add in the fresh corn and stir. Continue cooking until the cornmeal is smooth and no longer gritty, 10-15 more minutes.
Add the butter and cheese and stir. Add more salt to taste if desired.
Grill sausages until done.
Let rest 5 minutes then cut into thirds.
Spoon cornmeal onto plates and top with the sausages. Garnish with parsley and a few cheese shavings and serve.