Few things sound more Appalachian than fried corn mush unless, maybe, fresh venison. All I wanted for Christmas this year was a deer and my dear partner processed once from this season for us. Once it was processed, we wanted to do something special. Reaching into our stash of foraged morel mushroom compound butter, we created a morel-butter fried corn mush dish.
With a cast iron skillet in one hand and cheap corn meal in the other, we created a great tasting and hardy winter meal.
Although some people like to hide the slightly gamier taste of venison, we prefer the tenderloin best sliced and lightly pan-fried.
While the meat quickly cooked, we heated the canola oil for tasty fried corn mush, known outside the hills as polenta.
Fried Corn Mush
6 cups water
2 tsp. salt
1 3/4 cups yellow cornmeal
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter (if you have an foraged compound butter such as morel or ramp butter, substitute that)
1 Tablespoon bacon grease
2 cups oil
1. Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a heavy, large saucepan. Add 2 teaspoons of salt. Gradually whisk in the corn meal. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the mixture thickens and the corn meal is tender, stirring often, about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat. Add the butter and stir until melted.
2. Lightly grease an 11 by 7 inch baking dish or pan with bacon grease, spread to be evenly thick and chill 2 hours up to overnight.
3. Cut polenta into 2 by 1 inch slices. Heat the oil in a cast iron (or other heavy) skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, fry the polenta pieces until golden brown on all sides (about 3 minutes). Using tongs, transfer the slices onto paper towel to drain.
4. Serve as a side, snack, or with your favorite meat. Top with grated Parmesan cheese.