Category Archives: polenta

Creamy Herbed Polenta w/ Mushrooms

polenta

One of my favorite side dishes in polenta. Warm and creamy it is satisfying on its own and makes the perfect bed for soaking up rich sauces and stews. When dining out I will often select a dish simply because the main entree is accompanied by polenta. But despite my love of this dish, until recently I rarely cooked it at home. Why? After all making it is quite simple; all you really need is boiling water and cornmeal and a spoon for stirring. Lots of stirring. And that is why I tended to shy away from making homemade polenta. Try as I might; experimenting with temperature, cooking apparatus and spoon, my polenta would inevitably end up filled with unappetizing lumps. But then I broke out my slow cooker.

Yes, polenta made in a slow cooker. Really, nothing could be easier and best of all, there simply aren’t any lumps. I love it. This recipe is from  William Sonoma and is everything a good polenta should be. It is rich and creamy and this version is studded with corn kernels. By topping it off with sautéed mushrooms you have a complete meal by itself. Or you can serve it along side your favorite meat dish that has lots of juice you want to sop up.

CREAMY HERBED POLENTA w/ MUSHROOMS

4 cups low sodium chicken stock

1 cup stone-ground polenta

1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large shallot, finely chopped

3/4 pound brushed clean and quartered

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

2 tablespoons minced fresh oregano

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup  fresh or thawed frozen corn kernels

  • In a slow cooker, stir together the stock, polenta, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of the black pepper.
  • Cover and cook on the low setting for 3 to 3 1⁄2 hours, stirring two or three times if possible. The liquid should be absorbed and the polenta should be thick and soft and no longer gritty.
  • About 10 minutes before the polenta is ready, in a large, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter with the oil.
  • Add the shallot and mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms are tender and their liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes.
  • Stir in the garlic and parsley, season with remaining salt and pepper, and cook for 1 minute more.
  • About 5 minutes before the polenta is ready, stir in the oregano and thyme, Parmesan and corn kernels, then re-cover.
  • Spoon the polenta into warm shallow bowls or a serving bowl and top with the mushroom mixture.
  • Serve immediately.

Serves 4 to 6.

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Cilantro Shrimp w/ Apple-Raisin Sauce over Curried Polenta

photo 4-20

It is Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing you want to do to cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat.  The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes.  Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

This meal only appears complicated but in reality is fast.  There are three components in this dish but each cooks in a matter of minutes and when combined on the plate create a satisfying Indian-esque meal. The original recipe from Cuisine at Home used sea scallops but I substituted shrimp with tasty results.  Fresh steamed broccoli completed the meal.

CILANTRO SHRIMP w/ APPLE-RAISIN SAUCE over CURRIED POLENTA

For the sauce:

1/2 cup peeled and diced Granny Smith apple

1/2 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup fresh orange juice

1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth

2 tablespoons minced red onion

2 teaspoons minced orange zest

1 teaspoon honey

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons minced cilantro

Salt & pepper to taste

  • Combine the apple, raisins, orange juice, broth, onion, zest, honey, and red pepper flakes in a small saucepan.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes or until the apples are tender.
  • Stir in the cilantro, and season with salt and pepper.
  • Keep warm while you make the remaining meal components.

For the shrimp:

1 tablespoon sunflower oil

1 pound fresh or frozen raw shrimp

1/3 cup minced cilantro

Salt and pepper to taste

  • Heat the oil in a large saute pan until it shimmers.
  • Pat the shrimp dry and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
  • Add the shrimp to the oil and tossing occasionally,  saute until cooked through, approximately 2-3 minutes.
  • Off the heat and stir in the cilantro.

For the polenta:

4 cups whole milk

1 cup polenta or yellow cornmeal

1/2 teaspoon sweet curry powder

1/3 cup shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1/2 cup diced tomatoes

1/3 cup chopped scallion greens

Salt & pepper to taste

  • Bring the milk to a boil in a saucepan over medium heat.
  • Combine the polenta and curry powder and slowly whisk it into the milk.
  • Cook the mixture, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick and smooth, 4-5 minutes.  Be sure to mix continually otherwise lumps will form.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cheese, tomatoes, and scallions.
  • Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Serves: 4

Cilantro Shrimp w/ Apple-Raisin Sauce over Curried Pepper Polenta

photo 4-20

It is Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing you want to do to cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat.  The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes.  Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

This meal only appears complicated but in reality is fast.  There are three components in this dish but each cooks in a matter of minutes and when combined on the plate create a satisfying Indian-esque meal. The original recipe from Cuisine at Home used sea scallops but I substituted shrimp with tasty results.  Fresh steamed broccoli completed the meal.

CILANTRO SHRIMP w/ APPLE-RAISIN SAUCE over CURRIED POLENTA

For the sauce:

1/2 cup peeled and diced Granny Smith apple

1/2 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup fresh orange juice

1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth

2 tablespoons minced red onion

2 teaspoons minced orange zest

1 teaspoon honey

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons minced cilantro

Salt & pepper to taste

  • Combine the apple, raisins, orange juice, broth, onion, zest, honey, and red pepper flakes in a small saucepan.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes or until the apples are tender.
  • Stir in the cilantro, and season with salt and pepper.
  • Keep warm while you make the remaining meal components.

For the shrimp:

1 tablespoon sunflower oil

1 pound fresh or frozen raw shrimp

1/3 cup minced cilantro

Salt and pepper to taste

  • Heat the oil in a large saute pan until it shimmers.
  • Pat the shrimp dry and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
  • Add the shrimp to the oil and tossing occasionally,  saute until cooked through, approximately 2-3 minutes.
  • Off the heat and stir in the cilantro.

For the polenta:

4 cups whole milk

1 cup polenta or yellow cornmeal

1/2 teaspoon sweet curry powder

1/3 cup shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1/2 cup diced tomatoes

1/3 cup chopped scallion greens

Salt & pepper to taste

  • Bring the milk to a boil in a saucepan over medium heat.
  • Combine the polenta and curry powder and slowly whisk it into the milk.
  • Cook the mixture, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick and smooth, 4-5 minutes.  Be sure to mix continually otherwise lumps will form.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cheese, tomatoes, and scallions.
  • Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Serves: 4

Village a.k.a DATT House Chicken

Chicken nestled in polenta

Chicken nestled in polenta

Every village in Albania seems to have their own version of a village chicken.  My first encounter with village chicken came shortly after we arrived in the country.  We were invited to spend the day with Albanian co-workers who took us to their ‘house in the country”.  Around lunch time we visited one of their neighbors who proudly showed us his small flock of chickens and asked Sidney, who was all of twenty months at the time, to pick out which bird he liked the best.  Sidney quickly pointed to one bird who had curiously come over to investigate the visitors.  I didn’t think about this brief encounter again until two hours later when a roasted chicken appeared on our picnic table.  Voila!  Apparently our son had selected our meal.  Fortunately he didn’t connect his selection of a chicken with the lunch we were served.

The concept for village chicken is simple; a whole roasting chicken is put into a pot on top of a bed of grains, covered and cooked over a hot fire.  The juices from the roasting chicken infuse the grains and when ready, you have an entire meal in one pot.  The grain is usually a bed of white rice, perhaps with a few seasonal vegetables added in, but I’ve also discovered groats, millet, or buckwheat at the bottom of the dish in different restaurants.  Because this is Albania, a place where no food goes to waste, every bit of the chicken is traditionally thrown into the pot.  If you dig deep enough into the dish you will find bits of liver, heart, and other organ meats along with the neck and chicken parts I don’t recognize.

My version of village chicken is a bit more sophisticated and probably wouldn’t be recognized as the traditional dish by most Albanians.  I’ve made mine on a bed of polenta.  To infuse the chicken with a deeper flavor, I stuffed the bird’s cavity with fresh orange and lemon wedges and added whole bay leaves.  And yes, I discarded any organ meats and any other unrecognizable chicken parts from the dish.  So enjoy our house chicken; it is easy, tastes good, and if it doesn’t all get eaten the first night, makes great leftovers the next day.

VILLAGE / DATT HOUSE CHICKEN

1 3/4 cups polenta

2 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth

2 cups dry white wine

1 whole roasting chicken, rinsed and patted dry

1 whole orange, cut into wedges

1 whole lemon, cut into wedges

4 bay leaves

Salt and pepper to taste

2 Tablespoons olive oil

  • Place the polenta, chicken broth, and wine in the bottom of a Dutch oven that is large enough to comfortably hold the chicken.
  • Rinse the entire chicken and pat dry with paper towels.
  • Stuff the chicken cavity with the orange and lemon wedges and the bay leaves.
  • Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
  • Place the olive oil in a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat.  Sear the chicken on all sides until it is browned.
  • Carefully transfer the chicken to the Dutch oven and place on top of the polenta and cover tightly.
  • Place the Dutch oven in a 375 degree oven and roast  for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until the chicken is cooked through.  You can test it by carefully wiggling a drumstick. If it jiggles freely the chicken is done.

The chicken is traditionally served from the pot on the table.  You can either serve it whole and carve it at the table or you can remove it from the pot, cut the meat into serving sized pieces then return it to the Dutch oven before bringing it to the table.

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