Say Goodbye to the Delivery Guy
May 6, 2011 10:24 am
Updated: Jun. 7, 2011 8:13 pm
Its done. The move to Las Vegas is mostly complete. The sale on my house in Seattle closed last week and the new owners are loving living there. Culinary school starts in 10 days and I've managed to find a fairly decent mix of grocery stores to meet
my shopping needs. All is going well except for the guy who delivers food from the local Italian place...he is going to be disappointed not to be hearing from us every night. Their food got us thru the "have you found the box with the silverware in it yet?"
and the..."what do you mean they packed the olive oils without sealing them tightly?" dinners and now I am back in the groove for cooking. I am sick of takeout, delivery, fast and every other kind of food and I'm ready to hit the kitchen with a renewed vigor.
I must say, however, that cooking in a new kitchen can be both confusing and painful. The stovetop's medium high is a LOT hotter than my old one and I've burned myself, not once, but twice with spitting olive oil in a pan just a little too hot. I've been
to the trash can under the sink countless times to toss something away. Only, the trash is not located under the sink, nor has it ever been in any place I have ever lived. Why do I keep going there? I have also gone to the kitchen "junk" drawer for silverware
a number of times...again...not there...but apparently it feels like it should be.
Figuring out what goes where has taken a couple of weeks. I started out putting post its on each of the cupboards and drawers before the movers even arrived. In case you hadn't figured it out before now from my previous posts, I am slightly compulsive and
"overly organized". Hey...I'm a Virgo..what can I say? So I ended up moving those post its ALOT before I settled on the first setup. As we were unpacking, things moved around again and I think that we're pretty settled. Its hard to go from a kitchen that
I custom designed to meet my needs to a new one where I have to deal with where things are.
One of the things I've had on my To Do List (of course I have one...no wait...not just one I have several organized by topic, but I digress) is a number of items I want to try out on my own before I head to culinary school. On that list is Polenta which I
decided to tackle this week.
Here's what I did:
2 cups of a mix of Coarse and Medium Grind cornmeal
4 cups of chicken stock
2 cups of water
Bring the stock/water combo to boiling, add 1 tsp of kosher salt
and gradually whisk in the cornmeal. Cook the mixture until its thick and bubbling - be careful to keep it moving and turn the heat down so that it doesn't spit at you. Hot cornmeal hurts! You could make this part easier by using a quick cooking polenta
but I was looking for the grainer texture you get with the coarse ground meal. This should cook about 30 mins to let the meal absorb the water and get soft, but I cut it short at about 15 because I was intending to do a second phase of cooking on the polenta
and I wanted to keep a nice texture on it. If I was serving this as a soft polenta, I would have dropped the coarse ground all together and cooked it the whole 30 mins.
Once the polenta is cooked to your liking, take it off the heat and stir in
2-4 tsp of softened butter and 1/2 to 3/4 cup of finely grated parmesan. If you know me, you know that I used the 4 tsp of butter and the 3/4 cup of parm, but I always go for the added flavor and creaminess in a dish and forego thoughts
of the caloric content. Make sure you test for seasonings (salt) at this point as well. This is the point where you can go in 100 different directions with Polenta. You can add herbs, some folks do a bit of cream or marcarpone, others might add a bit of
honey to bring out the sweetness in the corn. Its up to you. Here's the direction I went. I oiled (EVOO) a 9x5 loaf pan and spread the polenta in it. It completely filled the pan to make a nice polenta "loaf" when it set up. Alternately, you could make
the set up process go faster by spreading it in a 9x13 pan. When it was cold enough, I put it in the fridge to finish setting up. I was looking for it to "harden" to the point of being able to slice it for grilling, griddling, saute, baking...I wasn't quite
sure how I was going to use it.
And the waiting began...
Oh...the Polenta set up perfectly. I just had no idea what to do with it. So it sat in the fridge for a couple of days while I pondered, purused recipes and generally looked for inspiration.
Aha...Sausage and Roasted Red Peppers over Griddled Polenta Squares
4 to 6 Mild Italian Sausage Links - casing removed - or buy it in bulk - maybe a pound
1/2 large Sweet Onion sliced thinly
1 large Red Pepper (roasted on the grill or stovetop and peeled) - this is where my partner in crime comes in, he's the grill man so I didn't have to do this step myself. Its worth doing though...much better than roasted red peppers in a jar
- thinly sliced
2-4 garlic cloves - depending on your taste
1 to 2 Tblsp of Tomato Paste
A Splash of Sweet Marsala wine, or any red wine or red wine vinegar to give the dish some depth
Fresh Basil - julienned
Red Pepper Flakes - to taste and depending upon the spiciness of the sausage you used
Saute the sausage and break it up as its cooking. Be sure to get some good carmelization on the sausage. Remove the sausage from the pan, add a bit of olive oil, the onions and red pepper. Cook for a few minutes until they begin to soften, add a bit of salt
and pepper, then add the garlic. Let the garlic cook for a few minutes and the add the tomato paste and the cooked sausage. After letting those flavors blend for a few minutes and distributing the tomato paste thru the dish, break out the wine. Add just
enough to give the dish some moisture...you're not really looking to make a sauce here...just to coat the meat and veggies with flavor. Test for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Add the Basil and Red Pepper Flakes (less is more here so don't go too wild).
Meantime, I sliced the Polenta "Loaf" into approx 1" slices, heated up the griddle (think pancakes) on my stovetop with a little Olive Oil and Butter. I griddled the slices for about 4 minutes on each side to get them nice and toasty brown. The timing will
depend on the heat of your griddle and how darkly toasted you want them. Either way...make sure you get a bit of crunch on them. And don't messs with them and keep turning and looking...just let them brown up on one side and turn them over...if you move
them around too much, they will break...you're not looking for cornmeal mush...that's a dish for another day.
When the polenta is crisped, put it on the plate and spoon the sausage/pepper mixture over it to serve. The proportions here serve anywhere from 4 - 6 people depending upon appetite and how many sausage you used. You can adjust more or less by cutting thinner
or thicker slices of Polenta.
For serving, I added a sprig of fresh basil, some grated parmesan, fresh parsley and a small dollop of marcarpone cheese (which adds a lovely creaminess to the dish and is highly recommended). But most of this "fuss" was so that I can take a lovely photo to
upload and then I promptly give my partner in crime the photo-ready version...and mine looks "normal".
Now...what to do with the leftover Polenta "Loaf"? How about griddled until crispy with some maple syrup poured over the top? Hey...who says you can't have Italian for breakfast? Maybe I'll call the delivery guy and see if he wants breakfast on his way to
work. Poor man, I feel sorry for him, he's going to miss us...We're good tippers! :-)
Stay tuned for the next item on my "Things to Try Cooking Before School Starts" list.
Crispy Polenta with Sausage and Peppers