Savoyard Polenta Pilaf 4.000

Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post

May 9, 2012

Food scholar and cookbook writer Betty Fussell tells us that in the Savoy region of France, cornmeal sometimes is treated as rice, first sauteed with onions and butter and then steamed like a Turkish pilaf. Here the pilaf is topped with a compote of dried fruits enriched by a little bacon.

Serve with pork, ham, or game as a side dish.

Servings: 4 - 6
  • 1 1/2 cups coarse cornmeal, preferably freshly ground
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped fine (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 7 cups no-salt-added or homemade chicken broth
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups cut-up, mixed dried fruit (pears, apples, prunes, cherries, apricots, etc.)
  • 1/2 cup diced smoked bacon (from 1 to 2 slices)
  • 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped hazelnuts (skinned if desired)
  • 1 lemon


Toast the cornmeal in a heavy skillet over medium heat until it has browned lightly, stirring frequently; watch closely to avoid overbrowning. Add half of the butter and all of the onions; cook, stirring, until the onions have softened, 3 to 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring the chicken stock to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Fill the bottom pan of a double boiler with 1 to 2 inches of water and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat.

Transfer the cornmeal mixture to the top of the double boiler and gradually add 5 cups of the broth, stirring until the cornmeal is smooth and lump-free. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set the top into the bottom pan, cover tightly and steam for 30 to 40 minutes.

Add the dried fruit to the remaining 2 cups of stock in the saucepan. Cover and cook, regulating the heat so the broth is barely bubbling at the edges, for 20 to 30 minutes or until the fruit is nicely plumped. Use a slotted spoon to remove the fruit to a medium bowl to drain. Discard the broth, or use it for another purpose, such as soup.

Fry the bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat until crisp; discard the fat. Add the hazelnuts and toast for 3 to 4 minutes, until they begin to brown. Add the drained fruit to the skillet and cook quickly for a minute or so to meld the flavors. Add 1 or more squeezes of lemon juice to counteract the sweetness. Add the remaining butter to the cooked pilaf, fluff it with a fork and heap it onto a serving platter. Top with the fruit mixture and serve.

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Recipe Source

Adapted from "Crazy For Corn," by Betty Fussell (Harper Perennial, 1995).

Tested by Sarah Meyer Walsh.

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