Are you enjoying the Olympics? In keeping with the Olympic theme of meals around the world, tonight’s culinary adventure honors the Italian athletes competing in the 2008 Beijing Games. As I write this,
I'm a star spangled girl that boasts an Italian heritage (notice how I manage to squeeze that fact into just about every post? ;-D), so preparing an Italian meal was a piece of cake. My roots are Southern Italian and so tonight we dined on food that would feel right at home on my relatives’ tables. Our gold medal meal consisted of a lovely Parmesan and Pecorino Polenta topped by a marvelous Meat and Mushroom Ragu. Accompanying those star performers was sliced Italian Sausage that was first poached and then pan grilled. Green beans with a delicate butter garlic sauce rounded out the meal.
Before I begin, let me just ask you a quick question. Do your pots and pans all fit nicely on your stove top? As my children get older, I’ve been slow on the uptake in figuring out that I need to be preparing larger portions for my own little Olympians. Now that I’ve finally stepped up to the podium, I find that I’m using all four burners on the stove for every meal. Sometimes the pots and pans fit nicely, other times not so much. I have an electric stove with the standard 2 small – 2 large burner set up.
Inevitably, I need 3 large burners and one small. *Sigh* I still regret not getting that gas line run and getting a gas stove. This one may be pretty to look at, but a) I’ll never get a black topped stove again, and b) I prefer stoves where the control panel is across the front, not in the back where I get to singe my arm whenever I adjust the temperature! My old stove was a stainless drop in and very easy to clean. This one is both black and stainless, and the black shows every little speck of everything. See the ragu splatters on the back control panel? I do use the grill year round, and that frees up the burners, but I don’t grill every night and so I need to get creative here. My family won’t eat casseroles (you know … because the food touches), so that is out. I take advantage of the crockpot, too, but don't want crockpot meals all the time. My cooking comfort zone is using the cooktop. I think about my friend Marjie and how she literally manages to prepare meals for her family of 11. As I rearranged and shoved and rearranged my fridge to accommodate a week’s worth of groceries, I remembered her post where she showed how she fits in all the food to feed her gloriously large family. I fear that I covet her kitchen! How do you juggle cooking on your stove/cook top?
Back to tonight’s menu. I adore polenta and can pretty much make it in my sleep. The homemade version is infinitely better than the ready made stuff, and doesn’t really take long at all. I’ve seen recipes where they want you to cook it for 45 minutes stirring constantly or some such thing. Who has time to do that? Here’s how I was taught to make it. Now you, too, can enjoy this yummy golden goodness in about the same amount of time as it would have taken to make pasta.
Paula’s Podium Worthy
Parmesan and Pecorino Polenta
2 ½ cups of milk (I use 1%)
½ cup of cream
½ cup of chix broth or water
1 chicken bouillon cube (yeah, I know it’s like a salt lick, but it works here)
2 Tablespoons butter
Dash White Pepper
Dash Season Salt
Dash Garlic Powder
Dash Onion Powder
1 heaping cup of Corn Meal (Yep, just regular yellow corn meal works great here)
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
¼ cup grated pecorino Romano cheese
In a 3 qt non-stick sauce pan, combine the milk, cream, broth or water, bouillon cube, butter, pepper, seasoned salt, and garlic and onion powders. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Watch it carefully when it starts to bubble because it will boil over quickly. As soon as it has reached a rolling boil, take it OFF the burner. Turn off the stove. Very slowly, WHISK in the corn meal. (Do not whisk in the cornmeal while the pot is still on the stove … it will bubble up and could splatter and burn you.) After it has been whisked in, stir in the cheeses. You can serve immediately - creamy style. If you want to cut out shapes as I did, you can pour it out to cool and firm up, and then you can cut into shapes.
If you want to cut out shapes, butter an oblong baking dish.
Butter the back side of a spoon, and using the buttered side,
Let sit for at least 10-15 minutes.
Ahem. Moving on. The polenta will firm up as it sits. After waiting 10 minutes or so, cut into shapes. You can use a knife, a biscuit cutter, or as I did, a cookie cutter.
That’s it! In just beyond the time it takes to boil water, you could be having polenta instead. If you want fancy shapes, it takes just a little longer. I usually just spoon it up, but today was a special exception. And, feel free to jazz up your polenta. Do you prefer spicy foods? Add some hot red pepper seasoning. Want to create unique flavors … add a smokey cheese or pungent cheese like smoked
Yuuum! Talk about a star spangled meal! This Podium Worthy Polenta pairs well with just about everything, too. Veggie sautés, meats, poultry, fish, ragu’s, and plain ol' butter … they all go great with this. Try it and let me know what you think! And, as usual, this is gluten free all the way, baby!
Turn in next time when our culinary adventures continue with meal homage’s toward