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Recipe from chef Michael Schwartz




Photographs courtesy of Michael Schwartz

Crispy Polenta Fries

Courtesy of chef Michael Schwartz

Golden and crisp on the outside with a moist, creamy interior, these polenta sticks, a modern twist on classic French fries, make a satisfying late-night snack or finger food. Making polenta is not as laborious as some would have you believe. It’s not necessary to stand over the pot for an hour constantly stirring until your arm is falling off. The key to making perfectly cooked polenta is to stir often, running a wooden spoon along the bottom of the pot so the cornmeal doesn’t stick and burn. This is an ideal make-ahead recipe; prepare the polenta in the morning and cut into sticks just before frying. For an outdoor barbecue, try putting the polenta on the grill; it adds a phenomenal smoky flavor. This salsa’ed-up ketchup is perfect to keep in the fridge for four to five days. The polenta fries and ketchup will happily join Michael’s Genuine Burger (see page 118 of his cookbook).


2 dozen


- 1 quart whole milk

- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

- 2 cups yellow cornmeal (not quick cooking), medium grind

- 1 cup grated grana padano or Parmesan cheese

- Kosher salt and freshly ground black

- pepper

- Canola oil, for frying

- Spicy Ketchup (recipe below)


1) Line a 9 × 13-inch baking dish with plastic wrap, letting the excess hang

over the sides.

2) Set aside.

3) Bring the milk, 1 cup water, and the butter to a simmer over medium heat in a large pot.

4) Gradually whisk in the cornmeal in a slow steady stream.

5) Reduce the heat to medium-low and switch to a wooden spoon.

6) Cook, stirring often, until the polenta is very thick and pulls away from the sides of the pot, about 15 minutes.

7) Remove from the heat.

8) Stir in the cheese until incorporated; season with 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper.

9) Pour the polenta into the prepared baking dish, spreading evenly with a

rubber spatula; it should be about 1/2 inch thick.

10) Refrigerate until completely cool and firm, at least 1 hour or, even better, overnight.

11) It’s important that the polenta sets up completely and gets quite dense, so it’s easy to cut into strips, that won’t fall apart in the hot oil when you fry them.

12) Heat 3 inches of oil to 350°F in a countertop electric fryer or deep pot.

13)  If you don’t have a deep-fry thermometer, a good way to test if the oil is hot enough is to stick the end of a wooden spoon or chopstick in it.

14) If bubbles circle around the end, then you’re good to go.

15) Grab the ends of the plastic wrap and lift the polenta out of the baking dish and onto a cutting board.

16) Flip the polenta over to remove the plastic.

17) Cut the polenta into thirds lengthwise and then crosswise into sticks. 18) You should wind up with 24 large Lincoln Log–like pieces, approximately 3/4 inch wide by 4 inches long . . . yes, they’re huge.

19) Put the polenta sticks in a fryer basket or spider strainer and carefully lower into the hot oil. Do this in batches to avoid overcrowding and to keep the oil temperature constant.

20) Fry the polenta sticks for 3 to 5 minutes, until they are golden brown and crispy.

21) Transfer to a paper towel-lined platter to drain.

22) Season lightly with salt while the fries are still hot.

23) Stack the polenta fries like Lincoln Logs on a large platter.

To Serve:

Serve with the spicy ketchup.



Chef Michael Schwartz’s recommendations on where to eat and shop in Miami, Chicago, Connecticut, and San Francisco.

Spicy Ketchup

Courtesy of chef Michael Schwartz


2 cups


- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

- 1/2 small onion, coarsely chopped

- 2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

- 1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped

- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

- 2 cups ketchup

- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro


1) Put a small skillet over medium heat.

2) When the pan is hot, coat with the oil.

3) Add the onion, garlic, jalapeno, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

4) Stir until the onion softens and starts to get a little color, about 3 minutes.

5) Scrape the vegetable mixture into a food processor.

6) Pulse until combined but not totally smooth; you want to keep the chunky texture.

7) Transfer to a bowl and add the ketchup and cilantro.

8) Mix together until well blended. Season again with salt and pepper if necessary.


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