Crispy-edged, creamy-centered polenta topped with chili, cheese, and crunchy crushed nacho chips. No one will ever guess that this chili cheese polenta is a frugal leftover makeover, unless you tell them that is!
They say that necessity is the mother of all invention and in most circumstances it’s probably correct. But not when it comes to the creation of new recipes. At least not in my kitchen, most often it’s stubbornness that is the mother of all new recipes. Perhaps you’re like me and were raised with the notion to waste not, want not. In my kitchen, I’m always looking for new ways to stretch the ingredients I’ve got on hand, like last week’s banana French toast muffins. Well today’s recipe is another frugal fix, making the most from what I’ve got and this week what I’ve got is leftover chili, but trust me this chili cheese polenta bake is leftovers that your family will actually want to eat!
The base of this dish is polenta. For any of y’all not familiar with polenta, let’s just say polenta is the Italian cousin of good old southern grits. Both are made from coarse ground cornmeal that’s then cooked into a creamy corn porridge. There are other slight differences between the two and if you’d like to know more about it, you should check out this article on The Kichn which is full of good info. The polenta base of today’s chili cheese polenta retains a creaminess, but the sides and the bottom get a lovely crisp edge thanks to being baked in cast iron.
After a quick bake to set the polenta, it’s then topped with 1 3/4 cups leftover chili. (Now, if you really wanted, you could substitute one can of chili and I won’t judge you. Some days even food bloggers like me, who love to cook, are so worn out that we go for convenience and topple into bed at 6:30 with all our clothes on, on top of the covers, and fall asleep in spite of the fact that our kids are laying in the same bed watching Sponge Bob at an incredibly loud volume and bickering with each other. Just you know, for example.) Top the polenta and chili with some shredded cheddar cheese and crushed nacho chips for added crunch and it goes back into the oven. Serve it up with sour cream, cilantro, salsa, or jalapenos and you’ve stretched less than two cups of chili into a gorgeous main dish that will serve your whole family.
So tell me, have you been enjoying my frugal fixes lately? I’m thinking of making it it’s own category on the blog. Tell me what you think!
Chili Cheese Polenta
- 3/4 cup cornmeal
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1 pinch of salt
- 1 large egg , lightly beaten
- 1 3/4 cup leftover chili , or 1 15 oz can chili
- 3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 3/4 cup crushed nacho flavor chips
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Grease a 10 inch cast iron skillet well with shortening.
- Mix together the cornmeal, water, chicken broth and salt in a medium sized saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Once it reaches a boil, reduce the heat to medium, stirring frequently. Cook for around 6 minutes or until the mixture is very thick.
- Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes.
- Stir the egg into the mixture, making sure it is well blended.
- Spread the polenta in a thin and even layer in the bottom of your cast iron skillet.
- Bake uncovered for 15 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and carefully spread the chili over the polenta. Layer the cheese over the chili and the crushed chips over the top.
- Bake again for 20 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the center is set.
- Serve with sour cream, fresh chopped cilantro or salsa.