Polenta is an easy and simple side dish that requires only a bit of stirring to get right. Polenta and grits are basically the same thing, save some insignificant details about size and color. Sometimes polenta is labeled as such, but if you can’t find its name on a package, know that you can use coarse-ground yellow cornmeal to attain the same results. The thyme perfumes the broth, and a little butter and Parmesan rounds out the lean corn. I like to make it hours ahead of time, leave it off to the side of my stove, then rewarm it over low heat while I assemble the rest of the meal.
In a large Dutch oven, combine the chicken broth and thyme and bring to a boil. While whisking constantly, pour the cornmeal into the broth in a steady stream. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring every few minutes with a wooden spoon, until the polenta is tender and very thick, 25 to 30 minutes.
Remove the pot from the heat, stir in the Parmesan and season with salt and pepper. Scatter the butter cubes over the top of the polenta, but do not stir them in. Cover the pot and let stand until ready to serve, up to 2 hours.
When ready to serve, place the pot over medium-low heat and stir the polenta from time to time until it loosens, becomes hot again and the butter is incorporated. Transfer to a warm serving dish or serve straight from the pot.
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