Friday, September 11, 2009

Italian Polenta

It's been a while since I did a cooking post, so here goes. This is one of my favorite dishes and it's healthy and simple to make. I was born in Italy, and this is a very traditional dish.

What you need is:
Polenta, 2 cups (rough ground corn meal, basically. They charge more by calling it polenta. Don't buy the fine ground stuff though! Must be the bigger kernels.)
A splash of milk
A pinch of salt
6 cups boiling water

For the sauce:
1/2 a chicken, or various pieces (you could probably make it with other meat, but I always do chicken)
Large can of tomato sauce
Half an onion, chopped
2 cloves of chopped garlic, more or less. You can always adjust this to your tastes
Basil to taste
Thyme to taste
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
Olive Oil to taste, but don't be too stingy
I also sometimes add some pepper flakes for extra flavor

Throw all the sauce ingredients together first. I like to cook the sauce at least an hour, usually more, until the meat is falling off the bones. The sauce should be just simmering, usually a low to medium heat.  You want it to be really tender and cooked down. If the actual sauce starts boiling down too fast add a little more olive oil or water to keep it from drying out.  Or add more tomato sauce if you have it, but a can will usually do it.

When the sauce looks to be about ready, put the six cups of water on to boil. When it boils throw some salt in and lower to a simmer.  Then start to slowly pour the polenta in, stirring the whole time. This is crucial because it will get lumpy very easily if you stop stirring!  When all the polenta is in, just keep stirring as it thickens. Be careful, because it will spit hot polenta at you as it boils, so a long handled spoon is good.  Once it starts getting pretty thick, slowly pour a little bit of milk in (maybe 1/4 cup? I never measured).  Some people but butter or cheese instead, but my mother always put milk.  Keep stirring. When it is thick enough that it's kind of hard to stir, turn off the heat and let it sit.  It will harden into a solid cake of polenta, which you can slice and serve.

Serve it sliced with the sauce poured over it.  You can also serve it when it is still a bit soft and hot, which is how my boyfriend likes it.  Also good for the impatient among us.

It is great left over sliced and fried in some butter with a little cheese melted on it too.

Enjoy! I forgot to take a picture of it on the plate because I was too busy eating, which trust me, means it's good.

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