Thursday, September 17, 2009
There are certain foods out there that you know you like, but eat very infrequently, even though the ingredients to make them are right in your kitchen or easy to get, and even though, in some cases, the food in question is available pre-made at the grocery store. Polenta, for me, fits all of these criteria. I eat it very infrequently, and prior to this week, I'd never attempted to make it at home. A recipe I found online at Whisk: A Food Blog inspired me to make my own polenta at home, albeit a more basic version than the fresh corn and aged cheddar variety at the link. In lieu of cheddar, I used the more traditional Parmigiano-Reggiano, and I skipped the corn entirely. I'm guessing those additions would have been terrific, but it's always important to me that I try to get the fundamentals of a dish down first before altering it dramatically or experimenting with it.
The good news is that while my results weren't quite as aesthetically pleasing as Whisk's, they were plenty delicious regardless. Oh man, were they ever. This polenta is probably the best dish I've made in a while. While I've been mostly happy with the food coming out of my little kitchen lately, this polenta was just really delish. I'm pleased with, and proud of, the end result, which is always just such a good feeling when cooking. Let's fast-forward through the less exciting part of making this dish first: simmer a mixture of chicken stock and whipping cream (at a 4:1 ratio); in a separate saucepan, cook the garlic in a little butter; add the stock/cream to this pan and get everything back to a good simmer; slowly add the cornmeal, whisking speedily as you go, just to prevent lumps from forming; cook the whole thing for a minute or too; stir in the cheese and herbs; empty into a baking pan; refrigerate for 2 hours. See, we got that over with pretty quickly. Now we can move onto the more fun part.
Also, just as a sidenote, I just wanted to mention that I actually only made a 1/2 recipe. This was plenty of polenta for, say, three-four small main courses or large side dishes. If you're going to go the same route, use a regular 8-inch pie pan instead of the 9x9 baking pan suggested in the recipe.
Okay, our two hours of refrigeration are up, and the polenta has firmed up a good deal. The recipe said to use parchment paper, but not having any on hand, aluminum foil worked perfectly well, and the polenta didn't stick to it at all. Go in for a good whiff. It smells pretty good already.
Next, carefully cut out a slice of your polenta, leave it off to the side for the moment, and then heat up mostly olive oil with just a little bit of butter in a small pan.
Fftzzz! You can just imagine the onomatopoeia of the polenta sizzling away in this picture. Keep the heat to medium so the polenta gets a nice crust on the bottom, give it 4-6 minutes, and repeat on the other side. It's going to start to smell really great now. Just resist the urge to stick your face in for a closer whiff. Don't worry, you'll be able to do that once the pan's no longer on an open flame.
When it's done cooking, use a paper towel to remove any excess oil, and then plate it. You could add a homemade marinara or a garnish of some kind, but it's really just pretty delicious as is. Enjoy!
Thanks for stopping by Beach City Cooking, and I'll see you all tomorrow for another weekly Bento round-up! Have a great night, and stay cool!