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Polenta takes a while, but it's not nearly as intensive a process as conventional wisdom claims. This straightforward recipe from Cook's Illustrated takes about forty minutes, with plenty of downtime in which to saute some greens, sear chicken, or soft-boil an egg to go with the main attraction. I like to stir in a hefty sprinkling of parmesan, but it's not strictly necessary.
- Bring the water to a rolling boil in a heavy-bottomed 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat.
- Reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting, add 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and pour the cornmeal into the water in a very slow stream from a measuring cup, all the while whisking in a circular motion to prevent lumps.
- Cover and cook, vigorously stirring the polenta with a wooden spoon for about 10 seconds once every 5 minutes and making sure to scrape clean the bottom and corners of the pot, until the polenta has lost its raw cornmeal taste and becomes soft and smooth, about 30 minutes.
- Stir in the butter, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately.