I always loved getting fried polenta in resaurants, but I could never figure out how to make it! I polenta would just bubble and pop and splatter all over the place. However, I think I finally got it.
The basil leaf is sort of decorative, but it makes the little cakes taste sooooo much better. And, also, I think these would make a wonderful appetizer if you put a little marinara sauce on top!
Make up some polenta! Don't get that stuff that comes in a tube, either! It's pretty easy to make from scratch, though it takes a looooong time.
It's about 1 cup of polenta to 3 1/2 cups of water. Try to get Italian polenta, because it cooks nicer, but if you can't, that's fine too.
Anyways, you just stir it til it boils, turn down the heat, stir, turn up the heat, stir, etc. for about 30 minutes to an hour (depending on the polenta)
After the polenta cools, put it on a paper towel to dry a little.
Take a handful of polenta, and compact it into a ball. Once all tight and together, flatten it a little, then shape the sides. Press a leaf of basil on one side (you might want to cover the sides with a little polenta so it won't fall off), and salt and pepper the other.
Place all of the little cakes in a non-stick pan on low heat. just let them sit there for a while, until they get kind of flaky/crispy/stiff on the out side, but haven't changed too much in color. It's really hard to explain the consistency it gets to, but hopefully you'll understand when you get there. Do the same on the other side and remove from the pan.
Turn the burner up to med/high heat, and once the pan is hot, pour a couple tablespoons worth or so of olive oil. Then, carefully (I use a spatula to be extra careful), put the cakes in the oil. Once a side is coated, move it to the center to brown and crisp. Flip it, and do the same to the other side. And the do the exact same thing with all the other cakes! Yay, monotony!
Warning! Be careful of flying cornmeal coated in hot oil flying in step 5! Part of the reason why I do step 4 is to prevent the polenta from poping everywhere, but it can still happen. If a chunk from the inside of the cake, where the polenta is still moist, falls into the pan in step 4, get it out with the spatula. I haven't had anything major happen because of this, even when experimenting with the recipe, but I figure it'd be better to warn you.