Combine water, salt, pepper, and butter, and bring to boil. Slowly, in a thin stream, whisk in the cornmeal. When it starts to bubble turn off heat or it will splatter (the mix is very hot at this stage and can burn). Stir with wooden spoon, partially cover and leave on the warm stovetop, stirring every few minutes so it does not stick, for 30 minutes. When thick, remove from warm stovetop, and add cheese, garlic, and cilantro. Mix well. Pour into a 1 by 8 by 12-inch sheet tray or baking dish. Smooth out the mixture until it is level. Chill until firm, about 2 to 3 hours.
Preheat the canola oil in a deep pot to 350 degrees F.
Cut polenta in strips, about 1 1/2 by 3 inches. Lightly bread the polenta "fries" with cornmeal. Deep fry in hot oil for 2 to 4 minutes or until crispy.
Recipe courtesy of Michael DeGregory