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Lovin on Polenta

October 18, 2011

I have a new love interest…and it is polenta. Specifically I am obsessed with a creamy polenta served with spicy Italian sausage and roasted root vegetables. I rarely make the same thing two times in a short period of time and this dish has been on our table now twice in a little over a week. It is simple, elegant ridiculously flavorful with a nice contrast of sweet and spicy and I think you could find it on a restaurant menu for $25! I think the cost per serving is something in the actual ballpark of a few dollars.

Here is what you do…pick your veggies. First time around I diced carrots, beets, onions, and garlic. Second time around I sliced beets, carrots and butternut squash in the mandoline. Then I roasted them in a bit of olive oil with a dash of salt and pepper along with a smidge of sage and rosemary from the garden. The dice took a lot longer to cook if you are pressed for time. Thin sliced was about 30 minutes. 1/4″ dice took about 45 minutes.

Next place your Italian sausage in a skillet over medium heat and cook until done.  Depending on the size of the sausage it could take 15-25 minutes. While your sausage cooks, make your polenta.

Polenta is an Italian dish made from medium to coarse ground cornmeal. Some stores actually sell dry “polenta” grain in boxes or bulk bins…but really it is just a cornmeal. You can also find a precooked polenta in tubes at the grocery store. The precooked stuff is ok, if you plan on grilling slices to use under meat and veggies but really it has very little flavor. If you like sliced polenta, try my method of cooking, spread the cooked polenta on a sheet pan, cool it and slice it once it has hardened up a bit.

After many years of bland or dry polenta, I think I finally have a method. It is a mix of two different Mark Bittman techniques.

  • In a medium sized saucepan, whisk together 1 cup of medium to coarse cornmeal with 1 cup of milk.
  • Turn the heat onto medium low and begin adding water a little at a time (about 1/4-1/2 cup). Whisk the polenta and cook until the liquid is incorporated. After a cup or so of water, you can add spices to the polenta. I love rosemary. Keep adding water until the polenta is no longer crunchy and is cooked to your liking.
  • This is my favorite part…add a pat or two of butter and some grated parmesan cheese (about 1/4-1/2 cup). Stir it in, season with salt and pepper and remove from heat.
The polenta should take about 15-20 minutes…just about as much time as your sausage. Try to time them together, so that you can plate up your polenta right when it is finished. This is when it is its most creamy and delightful. To make the dish restaurant quality, place your bowls in the warm oven (it should still have some heat after roasting the vegetables) for about 30 seconds. Layer some of the veggies on the bottom of the bowl, place some polenta on top of the veg and top with slices of the Italian sausage. You can even be cheezy like me and garnish with a fresh sage leaf.
All I can say is I am in love.
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