Tuesday, June 9, 2009

157. Basic Polenta (p. 264) and 158. Broiled Polenta with Tomato Sauce (p. 266)

According to The Book, Mediterranean cooking authority Paula Wolfert developed a "no stirring" method for making polenta. When I read this recipe* for basic polenta, with its instructions to stir the polenta for one minute every 10 minutes of the 45 minute cooking time, I assumed that The Book hadn't adopted Ms. Wolfert's method. But, considering that the traditional method would have you stir the polenta constantly for the entire cooking time, this method is, relatively speaking, "no stirring."

The polenta was really very easy to make. It just takes a bit of time. All I did was boil some water and salt and then whisked in some cornmeal. I reduced the heat, covered it and, as I said, stirred it for one minute every 10 minutes until it was very thick and creamy.

After I finished cooking the basic polenta, I moved on to this recipe for broiled polenta with tomato sauce.

First I divided the polenta in two. I stirred some grated fontina cheese into half of it (the other half was for my wife, who can't eat dairy for the time being). I put the polenta into two small rectangle plastic containers that I had brushed with some olive oil, and put it in the refrigerator to set. The Book says to use a bowl, but it seemed to me that the finished dish would work out better with rectangle slices than with dome-shaped wedges.

Next I made the sauce. First, I heated some olive oil and cooked come chopped onions and garlic. Then I added some canned Muir Glen organic whole tomatoes and cooked it until it they had broken down into a thick sauce.

By then, the polenta had set. I turned it out of the containers, and cut it into 3/4 inch slices. I put the polenta under the broiler and waited for it to get golden around the edges. I waited, and waited, and waited. The Book says that it should take about three minutes per side. But after more than ten minutes, it still hadn't browned. I don't know that the problem was, but it was late, I was hungry, and I couldn't wait any more, so I took the polenta out of the oven. Before I made this, I thought about grilling the polenta instead of broiling it. I wish I had.

Even though the polenta wasn't crispy, this was still a tasty simple supper. We ate it with some spicy Italian turkey sausage. The polenta was tender and flavorful. The fontina gave it a nice creamines and saltiness without being "cheesy." And even though my wife's polenta had no cheese at all, she still liked it very much. The sauce was pure and simple. If I were to make this in late summer, I'd use fresh local tomatoes for the sauce, but canned were good.

Date Cooked: May 25, 2009
Degree of Difficulty: Medium
Rating: A-

*The recipe for basic polenta is not on epicurious.com. The recipe for the broiled polenta with tomato sauce includes its own recipe for basic polenta, but it's not the same as the one in The Book, and it does call for constant stirring.

1 comment:

Liz C said...

I've always had trouble getting polenta to brown, no matter what I do. I haven't tried grilling, though. If you find a solution, please share!