Monday, April 20, 2009

Polenta




Howdy from a 90 degree day in the Bay area.   I don't know the exact temperature, but it's darn hot.  So naturally, today would be the day that my culinary inspiration finally returned, causing me to use every burner on the stove, raising the temperature in our kitchen to something just beyond sweltering.  Thank goodness my friend Claire gave me all that delicious white wine to keep me cool!!

In addition to the compulsion I felt to make a big pot of fiery red curry today, I also thought I'd revisit my old friend polenta.  Growing up in my family,  it was called cornmeal mush and it was total peasant food.  It's still total peasant food - cheap and filling - and it was then, and still is, delicious!

Certainly everybody out there in blog land has their own recipe.  I can't say that I have one single recipe for polenta, but I thought I'd share with you what I made today.  As you can see, my dear old dog Spider thought it smelled delicious!

One of the things I love about polenta is that it's so versatile.  You can do what I did, or create your own take on the situation.  It's very forgiving and adaptable to your tastes.

First, you cook the polenta.  Many recipes say to use milk, but I prefer to cook it with water. Boil a good 6-8 cups of water with a pinch of salt, and slowly whisk in about 2 cups of polenta.

Now, cook it rather slowly over medium-low heat, whisking often, for a good long while - I cooked mine for about an hour.  It might seem like it's done after 30 minutes or so, but it really benefits from an extended period of simmering.  Just make sure to stir it often so it doesn't get all goopy and stick to the bottom.

Once it's nice & thick & porridge-like, I like to stir in some butter and grated cheese - cause what isn't better with butter & cheese?!  Today I used some jalapeno jack that was lying around. I used about 1 cup of cheese and half a stick of butter.  And then, I poured the hot polenta into a couple of buttered casserole dishes, and after letting it sit out on the counter to cool, put it into the fridge to solidify further.

While the polenta was cooling, I prepared the toppings, using what I had on hand.

I caramelized an onion ever so slowly, and thinly sliced some zucchini and mushrooms, and diced a handful of sun dried tomatoes.  I roasted the mushrooms in a skillet, and roasted the zucchini in a separate skillet along with the sun dried tomatoes, and set it all aside.

Once the polenta was cool, I spread a thin layer of caramelized onions on top, and followed it with the zucchini and mushrooms.  Then I topped it all with some feta and chives, cause that's what I had in the fridge.  Now it's sitting there just waiting to be enjoyed, along w/ that big pot of curry, and I'm torn between two lovers!  In any case, I'm happy to have leftovers after having had several days of eating too much toast and pizza.

Another thing I love about polenta is that it's a super cheap way to feed a crowd!  I made two casserole dishes of it tonight.  One pan alone is enough for us two eat for dinner tonight & lunch tomorrow, and I have another pan to take to a gathering later tonight.  And the whole lot of it cost something like five dollars!  So, three cheers for polenta.  And feel free to let me know how *you* like to make it!


1 comment:

Lisa Mc said...

That's funny, I was craving some polenta this week too. I cook it a lot like you do with the butter and cheese, then I top it with homemade marinara or spinach. The mushroom/onion combo sounds divine. I wish someone else in the house ate it too--I'm the only one. Sad.