Sunday, March 05, 2006

Polenta Adventures

I made polenta yesterday. This is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. One of those adventures in cooking I wanted to take. But, I wasn’t sure, both if we were going to like it and if I was going to be able to make it right. I did some checking around and found that Polenta can be sort of like mashed potatoes. Soft, just mounded up as a side dish and a gravy or spaghetti sauce put over it. Or, as a side with a stew. Or, you could put it into a bowl and then dump it out when it sets up and slice it.

So, here I am with 2 cups almost of coarse cut organic cornmeal/polenta from the trip I took the other day to The Food Mill. I looked in one of my recipe books and they called for 2½ cups of polenta to 6½ cups of water. I found some fine cornmeal up in my cupboard and added that to what I’d gotten to fill it out to the required 2½ cups. I also sauted up half an onion, threw in some salt and got the water to boiling.

Once it was boiling merrily away I slowly poured in a thin stream of the polenta whisking all the while. It didn’t take long and it began to thicken up. I switched to a spoon and continued stirring. And, stirring. And, stirring. I thought my arm was going to fall off. The recipe said 25 minutes. I didn’t read farther. I set the timer and took little breaks away from the job. Once I looked at the recipe again and saw it actually said 25-50 minutes for the stirring. Yikes.

I threw in a little bit of herbs de provence that I have. And, I kept adding water. I think, in total I might have added in a good 2 more cups of water. It just kept getting so very, very thick I was worried things weren’t going right. At one point I added in a little milk just for the hell of it. And, kept stirring. I remembered watching one of the cooking shows Giada De Laurentiis did. Her sister was there on the show stirring the polenta and said you always must stir it the one way (which way I couldn’t remember) or you would invite bad luck. I was stirring this any way I could. And, the recipe said for best results don’t stop stirring. I still wasn’t certain I was doing the right thing with this stuff and thinking to myself, “If it is horrible I will just throw it out”. I spot tasted what was going on and it was palatable. Not exciting, but it wasn’t breaking my teeth.

A channeling funny? I’m talking to the guides as I’m doing this. They are offering up all sorts of helpful suggestions. Some I act upon, others I don’t. It’s how we work. Companionable cooks and company in the kitchen while I work. Anyway, I was flagging on the stirring part. I mean, I was thinking my shoulder might be hurting the next day. I just don’t physically exert myself all that much and this was a job. So, somebody in Spirit (it was probably Seth) says, “Here, like this” and I started to stir the crap out of the polenta. It was amazing. Here I am exhausted and this guide takes over and I’ve got this sudden burst of energy…or, rather, my arm is moving like nobody’s business. Well, you would have to have been there. I said, “Okay, okay….that’s enough! Thank you very much.” And, we went back to the labored stirring I was doing. I should have let him continue for awhile. That was the worst pot to clean I’ve had to do in years.

Toward the end of the 25 minutes (no way was I going past that!) I started stirring in bits of scissored up parsley and grated cheese. It wasn’t much of either. I couldn’t taste the cheese in it so much as I noticed the texture change to a much creamier sort. The parsley sparkled it up with the bright green speckles.

I dumped it into two bread loaf pans and set it at the back of the stove. Some time later, not long, maybe an hour, I transferred both into plastic bags. It was amazing, they came right out of the pans as firm little loaves of polenta.

Towards dinner time Dennis had come back with pork cutlets for us to have as Weiner Schnitzel. But, we decided that hammering the cutlets out was going to be too long a job for Saturday’s dinner and we’d save that for Sunday. I hesitantly said, “We have polenta if you’d like to try that.” Dennis cocked an eyebrow at me and said, “What if we don’t like it?” He has memories of dinners past where I had launched into adventures in cooking. I said, “How about if we have grilled cheese sandwiches.” He brightened right up and said, “And, tomato soup.” I said, “Okay.” And, if the polenta is horrible we can just throw it out and still have something to eat for dinner.

I sliced it up and fried it. I used a knife on the first few slices and then rooted around in my sewing stuff and got a length of thread to use on the other slices. I liked that technique better. A nice slice and different to do with the thread.

Dennis had the first two slices out of the pan. He said, “Hey, I like this.” I gave him some pepper and onion relish from Harry and David to have with it. It was also good just with salt and pepper. Then, he had another couple of slices. By then he said, “This can be our dinner.” I agreed. This stuff was really very good! We also thought it would be good with fried eggs in the morning.

So, it was worth it. I’m glad it all worked out. Something I’ve been wanting to try for a long time, not sure I was doing the right thing and it actually ended up tasting very good.


shilo said...

Good morning!
I grew up with polenta, and as most kids...I hated it! lol We always had it baked, served with rabbit and a tomato-based sauce. Never tried it the way you made it, it sounds good!
could you stop by and give me the recipe? :)

Maritza said...

We ate lots of polenta (cornmeal) but made sweet with raisins and cinammon as a hot breakfast or salty/savory with a side of hotdogs sauteed with onions, peppers and tomato sauce. It's still my favorite! I think you would like my blog site, my dad's a psychic and if you go through my archives you'll find some funny stories about him and his powers. (He might have been able to help you with the polenta!)