Polenta Fries

For the fries:

  • A Frywall that fits (see our sizing guide)
  • A 12" cast-iron skillet
  • A 11x7" or size-equivalent baking pan
  • 1/2 cup grits
  • 1/4 tsp. Old Bay seasoning, plus more for final topping
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 oz. grated Parmesan cheese
  • Cooking oil
  • Stick of butter to grease the pan

For the sauce:

  • 1 28-oz. can of crushed tomatoes
  • 5 tbsp. butter
  • 1 medium onion, halved
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. capers
  • 1 cup parsley
  • juice from half a lemon

(Click to see the recipe for Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce, to which we've added the capers, parsley, and lemon juice)

Butter an 11x7" or similarly-sized baking pan. Prepare 2 cups of grits on the stovetop in a saucepan according to the instructions on the package. With most types of grits, this involves bringing 2 cups of water to a boil, sifting in 1/2 cup of grits while stirring, and cooking on medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the grits thicken and begin to pull away from the side of the pan.

Once the grits are done cooking, turn off the heat and stir in the Old Bay, parmesan, and salt. Spoon the mixture into the buttered baking pan and smooth to an even thickness. Let cool for 30 minutes, then refrigerate uncovered overnight.

Next, make the sauce: reduce a 28-oz. can of crushed tomatoes with a halved onion and 5 tablespoons of butter for about 45 minutes. While the tomato and onion reduction is still warm, spoon it into a food processor along with the capers, lemon juice, and parsley. Blitz for about 45 seconds, until the parsley is completely chopped. (Use the leftover sauce, of which there will be plenty, over pasta, preferably with some good tuna, or serve it a salsa with your favorite chips.)

Use a spatula to gently free up the hardened cake of grits from the edges of the baking pan. Flip upside down onto a cutting board, and cut into strips that are 1/2" wide and 4" inches long.

Fill the skillet with about half an inch of oil, and heat to 350 degrees. Place the Frywall into position, then use tongs to place about a dozen of the fries into the oil. Don't overcrowd the pan. Working in batches, fry for about 5 minutes, then use the tongs to turn them over and cook for another 2 minutes, or until golden-brown.

Remove the fries to a plate to let them cool for about a minute. If they've stuck together, gently break them apart by hand. Season with a little more Old Bay, and serve warm with the dipping sauce.

Bon appétit and have a delicious weekend. And next time you're in the Charleston, SC area, visit The Obstinate Daughter on Sullivan's Island. Their "Geechie Frites" were the inspiration for this recipe!