Company for dinner last week, eight of us, and at best I thought the polenta would be like the music you hear in a good movie – relatively unnoticed, but an important supporting role. Well . . . polenta with the onion-garlic-tomato-mushroom-thyme-bay leaf-wine sauce, created after hours in the oven with beef brisket, stole the show. It was velvety, rich comfort food. Forget about the brisket beneath.
So, a few nights later it was Polenta again, with sautéed shallots, mushrooms, a touch of tomato paste, kale and a little liquid. Cooked together on low heat for half an hour while the Polenta was cooking, we had a melt-in-your-mouth fast food vegetarian meal. Embellish with anything you like.
But Polenta for my Valentine? you might ask. Check out cornmeal-based cookie and cake recipes below. Swoon-worthy.
Polenta With Trimmings Recipe
This is slow food, but fast. Serves four, or two, depending.
Directions & Ingredients for basic Polenta: Bring 5 C salted water to a boil/ Slowly pour in 1 C Polenta while whisking constantly/ It will be watery at first/ Continue stirring with whisk and adjust heat so that mixture is bubbling lightly/ Stir Polenta every 4 or 5 minutes for 35 – 40 minutes while it simmers/It could be ready to eat after 20 minutes, but flavor and finish are refined and improved with more cooking/To finish polenta, turn heat to low, stir in 2 T butter (or no butter), 1/2 C half and half or cream, 1/2 C grated Parmesan/ Stir, remove from heat and serve immediately.
Directions & Ingredients for vegetable accompaniment: While Polenta is cooking, add 1/4 C finely chopped shallot, or 1/2 onion, to 2 T butter and 1 T olive oil/ On medium heat, sauté and stir for 1 minute (another minute if using onion)/ Add 2 C quartered mushrooms and sauté for 3 or 4 minutes – might need to add another tablespoon of olive oil/Add 1 T tomato paste, 5 – 6 C coarsely chopped kale and stir it all together/ Add 1/2 C liquid, water, veg or chicken stock, cover and cook for 5 minutes/ Remove lid , add 1/2 – 1 t salt and let cook on low for 10 – 15 minutes, stirring occasionally/ Everything becomes soft and kind of saucy/ At this point you could add an additional 1/2 C chicken or veg stock or water and let it cook for another minute or two.
When Polenta is done, place a cup or so on each plate or bowl along with a portion of the sautéed vegetables. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan. Additional protein? Chicken Italian sausage or a softly cooked egg are perfect.
Polenta variations via these previous Mixed Greens posts: