Grits, Polenta, and Risotto

Northern grits
Coco LePot’s Northern Grits

Grits, polenta, and risotto. Grits and polenta are both made from corn meal. Risotto is made from a short-grain rice. So what could they possibly have in common? All three can be made in the pressure cooker! If you’re wondering why that’s a big deal, you’ve probably never made any of them.

All three require constant attention while they are being cooked on the stove top. Approximately 45 minutes of continuous stirring for any of the three. Risotto also requires the addition of broth and then stirring until the broth is incorporated. This process is repeated over and over until you’re ready to go mad.

But not anymore. If you choose to make grits, polenta, or risotto the process is greatly simplified by the pressure cooker. Put the ingredients in the pot, lock the lid, set the cook time, and walk away. Have a glass of iced tea. Sip some wine. Prep the rest of your meal. Do whatever you want because the one thing you will not be doing is standing over the pot and stirring. Oh, happy day!

Grits are made from dried corn that has been ground into a coarse meal. (There’s also something called hominy grits. The dried corn was cooked in a lime solution and then dried again and ground. Or something like that. I don’t really understand it and neither do most of the people who are explaining it. So forget hominy grits for now.) Cooked alone, grits have no flavor. They need to be jazzed up with something. Salt, at the very least.

This Old Gal offers a pressure cooker recipe for Southern Style Cheesy Grits. If you want to add even more flavor and fancy to your grits, try this pressure cooker recipe for the long time Southern favorite, Shrimp and Grits. Honestly, what can’t be improved with the addition of shrimp? And let’s not forget our own Coco LePot and her Northern Grits. If the picture at the beginning of this post appeals to you, this is how you can make Northern Grits. First Coco made grits in her pressure cooker, naturellement.  Then she sautéed diced onion in butter, along with diced red, green, and yellow bell peppers. She added some diced ham and allowed it to heat a bit with the vegetables. She plated her grits and topped them with this delicious concoction. Pile some shredded cheese over it all, garnish with chopped parsley, and heaven on a plate is served.

Polenta is also dried corn that has been ground. But using a finer grind. Some people claim that the only real difference between grits and polenta is geography. If you went to the store and all you could find was something labeled ‘corn meal’ it would work for both. I know there are readers who are strongly disagreeing with my simple assessment  And that’s ok. Making polenta requires time and attention. This recipe from Hip Pressure Cooking’s Laura Pazzaglia for Polenta Five Ways takes some time and effort on your part at the beginning of the process. But it’s still a fraction of the time of the traditional method. Laura is Italian and lives in Italy. She knows her polenta.

Risotto is made with a short grain rice such as Arborio. Short grain rices are known for their ability to absorb liquids and release starches, two important factors in making risotto. Don’t try to use the long grain white rice that you find everywhere. It’s not going to behave correctly and you’ll end up with pilaf instead of risotto. Pilaf is a great dish but we’re talking about risotto. Once again, I turn to Laura Pazzaglia for her easy pressure cooker risotto. If you’ve ever attempted to make risotto on the stove top, you know the amount of time and effort involved. Some people don’t even want to try to make risotto for this very reason. This pressure cooker recipe will make it easy. And it’s Italian-approved so you know it’s delicious.

Although it’s not a part of this discussion, I brought up pilaf so let me give you a pressure cooker recipe. Rice Pilaf with Carrots, Peas, and Parsley looks and sounds fabulous. Remember, long grain rice isn’t going to produce the creaminess of risotto. Pilaf is a fluffier rice dish. If that’s what you’re looking for, this is perfect for you.

Now that I’ve made myself ridiculously hungry, I have to give a shout out to my absolute favorite Italian restaurant. If you’re ever in Western Pennsylvania, please do yourself a favor and make your way to Rizzo’s Malabar Inn in Crabtree, PA. Crabtree is a dot on the map. Rizzo’s is legendary. The DeFabo family and their staff make a simple dish like polenta taste out-of-this-world crazy-good. Reading the menu alone will make you swoon. Go. Just go.

I want to hear about your successes with grits, polenta, and risotto. Now that you see how easy they are to make in a pressure cooker, you have no more excuses. Mangiamo!

 

 

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