Air-Fried Milho Frito

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Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 6 to 8

Crispy bites of fried polenta known as milho frito in Portugal originated on the island of Madeira and are a favorite accompaniment to espetada, or grilled meat skewers. For a healthier take, we cook the polenta pieces in a Philips air fryer instead of deep-frying them. Serve them with pimentón aioli for dipping for the perfect accompaniment to a glass of Portuguese wine.


  • 1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 cups (48 fl. oz./1.5 l) water
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 cups (14 oz./440 g) cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup (1 oz./30 g) grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme, plus thyme leaves for garnish

For the pimentón aioli:

  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1/3 cup (3 fl. oz./80 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice, plus more to taste
  • 1 tsp. pimentón or smoked paprika


Grease a 9-by-11-inch (23-by-28-cm) baking pan or a quarter sheet pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper and grease the parchment.

In a saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the olive oil and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the water and 1 tsp. salt, increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Slowly whisk in the cornmeal until incorporated. Reduce the heat to low and cook, whisking frequently, until the mixture thickens and pulls away from the sides of the pan, 15 to 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Transfer the polenta to the prepared pan, using a spatula to smooth the top in an even layer. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and thyme. Let cool completely, then refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours or up to overnight.

To make the pimentón aioli, coarsely chop the garlic, then sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. salt. Using a knife, chop and mash the salt and garlic together until a paste forms. Transfer to a bowl. Whisk in the egg yolk and mustard until combined. While whisking constantly, slowly add the olive oil in a steady stream until emulsified. Season to taste with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Stir in the pimentón, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a small serving bowl and refrigerate until ready to use, up to 4 hours.

Preheat a Philips air fryer to 375°F (190°C).

Line a cutting board with parchment paper. Invert the pan with the polenta onto the parchment and tap the bottom of the pan to release the polenta. Using a long knife, cut the polenta into batons about 3 inches by 1 inch (7.5 by 2.5 cm). Spray the air fryer basket with nonstick cooking spray, then lightly spray the polenta. Flip the polenta over and lightly spray the other side.

Working in batches, arrange the polenta pieces in a single layer in the air fryer basket and cook until crispy and golden brown, about 12 minutes, turning them once about halfway through the cooking time. Transfer the polenta to a serving plate, garnish with thyme leaves and serve with the pimentón aioli alongside. Serves 6 to 8.

Williams Sonoma Test Kitchen

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