Fried Polenta Fingers with Pizza Sauce

Chilling, slicing and then frying the polenta creates dippable sticks that are crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside. We ate our weight in these delicious sticks at the recipe tasting. You've been warned.
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polenta-fingers-with-pizza-sauce

Recipe by Angie Pontani

Start to Finish: 1 hour, 15 minutes (Plus Chilling Time)

Servings: 4 (With Leftovers)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups medium or coarsely ground polenta

  • 1/2 cup chicken stock

  • 1 cup grated Pecorino Romano, plus more for topping

  • 2 tbsp. lard or butter

  • 1 tbsp. olive oil, plus more for frying (about 1 qt.)

  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

  • 1 jar (24 oz.) passata (uncooked tomato puree)

  • 1 tbsp. chopped fresh oregano

Preparation

1. In a large saucepan, bring 6 cups water to a boil. Gradually whisk in the polenta. Cook, whisking often, until the water returns to a boil. Whisk in the stock. Reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring often, until the polenta is tender (it will be very thick), about 25 minutes. Mix in 1 cup cheese and the lard; season with salt and pepper.

2. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Pour the polenta into the dish and spread in an even layer. Top with more cheese (about 2 tbsp.). Let cool for 20 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm enough to cut, at least 2 hours or overnight.

3. In a medium saucepan, heat 1 tbsp. oil. Add the garlic. Cook, stirring often, until golden, about 4 minutes. Add the passata. Bring to a simmer. Add the oregano; season. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer the pizza sauce, stirring often, until the flavors meld and the sauce thickens, about 20 minutes.

4. Cut the polenta into 1-inch-wide, 3 1/2-inch-long pieces. In a large deep skillet, add enough oil to measure about 1 inch. Heat the oil until a deep-fry thermometer registers 350°. Working in batches, fry about 4 polenta fingers at a time until crisp on the outside, 7 to 8 minutes per batch; bring the oil back up to 350° between batches. (Be gentle when turning the polenta fingers. They will be very soft until the outsides become crisp.) 

5. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the polenta fingers to paper towels. Sprinkle with more cheese. Serve with the pizza sauce for dipping.