A Very Royal Recipe: Crispy Polenta Fries

Upgrade your game-day watch party with these perfectly crispy-creamy fries.
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If you’re looking for a mouth-watering, crowd-pleasing party recipe that’ll put a gourmet twist on your usual game-watching fare, try this modern spin on the classic French fry. This crunchy finger food from Michael’s Genuine Pub on Anthem of the Seas is an onboard favorite—and it’s not hard to see why.

James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Schwartz, the man behind the gastropub-style menu at Michael’s Genuine Pub, explains: “Golden and crisp on the outside with a moist, creamy interior, these fries make a satisfying late-night snack or finger food.”

Feeling nervous about making your own polenta? Chef Schwartz’s pro tip: “It’s not as laborious as some would have you believe. It’s not necessary to stand over the pot for an hour constantly stirring. The key to making perfectly cooked polenta is to stir often, running a wooden spoon along the bottom of the pot so the cornmeal doesn’t stick and burn.”

Ease up your game day prep and make the fries ahead. “Prepare the polenta the morning of your party and cut into sticks just before frying,” says the chef. “If you’re having an outdoor barbecue, try putting the polenta on the grill instead of frying. Grilling the fries adds a phenomenal smoky flavor too.”

Craving more foodie adventures? Check out the best gourmet experiences you can have while traveling with Royal Caribbean.


Crispy Polenta Fries with Spicy Ketchup      

Makes 2 dozen

1 quart whole milk, preferably organic

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 cups yellow cornmeal (not quick cooking), medium grind

1 cup grated Grano Padano or Parmesan cheese

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Canola oil, for frying

Spicy Ketchup (recipe follows)


Line a 13 x 9-inch baking dish with plastic wrap, letting excess hang over the sides. Set aside.

Bring the milk, 1 cup water, and butter to a simmer over medium heat in a large pot. Gradually whisk in the cornmeal in a slow steady stream. Reduce the heat to medium-low and switch to a wooden spoon. Cook, stirring often, until the polenta is very thick and pulls away from sides of pot, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in the cheese until incorporated; season with 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper.

Pour the polenta into the prepared baking dish, spreading evenly with a rubber spatula; it should be about 1/2-inch thick. Refrigerate until completely cool and firm, at least 1 hour or even better, overnight. It’s important that the polenta sets up completely and gets quite dense, so it’s easy to cut into strips that won’t fall apart in the hot oil when fried.

Heat 3 inches of oil to 350˚F in a countertop electric fryer or deep pot. If you don’t have a deep-fry thermometer, a good way to test if the oil is hot enough is to stick the end of a wooden spoon or chop stick in it, if bubbles circle around the end then you’re good to go.

Grab the ends of the plastic wrap and lift the polenta out of the baking dish and onto a cutting board. Flip the polenta over to remove the plastic. Cut the polenta into thirds and then crosswise into sticks. This should yield 24 large Lincoln Log-like pieces, approximately 3/4-inch wide by 4 inches long . . . yes, they’re huge.

Put the polenta sticks in a fryer basket or spider strainer and carefully lower into the hot oil; do this in batches to avoid overcrowding and to keep the oil temperature constant. Fry the polenta sticks for 3 to 5 minutes, until they are golden brown and crispy, removing the cooked ones to a paper towel-lined platter to drain before adding the next batch. Season lightly with salt while the fries are still hot. Stack the polenta fries like Lincoln Logs on a large platter. Serve with spicy ketchup.


Spicy Ketchup

Makes 2 cups

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1/2 small onion, coarsely chopped

2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 cups ketchup

1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro


Place a small skillet over medium heat. When the pan is hot, coat with the oil. Add the onion, garlic, and jalapeño; season with salt and pepper. Stir until the onions soften and start to take on a little color, about 3 minutes.

Scrape the vegetable mixture into a food processor; pulse until combined but not totally smooth, to keep a chunky texture. Transfer to a bowl and add the ketchup and cilantro. Mix together until well blended; season again with salt and pepper if necessary.


Once you’ve perfected this modern twist on an old favorite, try mastering the Vegetarian Greek Farro salad.


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