Food Wine Italian - Polenta for the Italian Table
Until recently, polenta was recognized as the poor man's meal. Today it is a different story. It is considered an Italian robust treat, to such an extent that upscale restaurants feature polenta. It has actually migrated from rugged hard working communities of Italy to the socialite communities. Polenta is the one dish that is often part of the main dish. that is to say that it may be a second course, however it often part of the entrée.
Basic Maize Polenta Formula
For each grind, there is a simple formula. We try to stay away from course grind corm meal and stick with fine and medium grind. Since the meal varies from season to season and from where the corn is grown, the formulas are a rule of thumb. Fine grind cornmeal is one cup of maize to three cups of liquid. Medium grind cornmeal is one cup of maize to three and a half cups of liquid. Always have extra liquid available you may need it. Italian corn meal requires a little extra liquid. Instant polenta is a No No.
Medium grind cornmeal makes an excellent firm polenta, and is ideal for most polenta dishes. It may be purchased in most Italian food stores or gourmet shops.
Place the cornmeal in a bowl and mix in 1 cup of tepid water. Place remaining the water in a pot and bring to a boil. When the liquid is at a rolling boil, stir in the soaked cornmeal. Return to a boil and lower the flame to a simmer. Stir the bottom of the pot occasionally to prevent sticking. Polenta is cooked when it falls away from the sides of the pot-- about fifteen minutes. Taste to be sure. Polenta may be prepared an hour or so before service time. Simply remove it from fire and cover pot. At service time reheat. If the polenta becomes too firm add a little water.
If you prefer a soft polenta to a medium firm polenta add a 1/2-cup more of the liquid. Fine corn meal is preferred for a soft polenta. Fried and baked polenta dishes may be made with polenta that is refrigerated for a day or so. Make extra! We always do and fry or grill it the next day.
*A nice touch is to substitute a cup of broth for the water.
Serves 4 as an entree or 6 as a pasta
For the polenta:
For the ragu: In a medium size saucepot, heat the oil. Add the mushrooms, carrots, celery, onion, fennel, garlic, and sauté until the carrots are half cooked. Add the peppers and zucchini and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the basil and parsley and cook for 1 minute, add the tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste, and cook until all is tender.
Place the corn meal in mixing bowl, and stir in 1&1/2 cups of water. Put the remainder of the liquid in a heavy saucepot and bring to a boil. When the water comes to boil the corn meal will have softened in its water. Carefully add the corn meal to the boiling liquid and stir well to the bottom of the pot. When the polenta comes to a boil, lower the heat, stir well to the bottom of the pot. Continue cooking, occasionally stirring to the bottom, until it falls away from the pot, about 8 minutes. It should be cooked; taste to make sure, if the corn meal is still a little raw add more water and continue cooking until it is fully cooked-medium grind cornmeal should have a little bite.
To serve, pour the polenta on to a serving platter, smother with the ragu and top with 1/2 the cheese. Serve the remaining cheese on the side.
* A rule of thumb formula for medium cornmeal is 1 part cornmeal to 3.5 parts liquid. See the "Cooking of Parma" cook book for more polenta details and refinement.
Pair with Gattinara aged 4years, Amarone, Brunello di Montalcino aged 5 years
Start cooking one recipe of polenta. At the same time heat the butter in a large saute pan, carefully add the fresh mushrooms and the reconstituted dried mushrooms (save the mushroom liquid) to the pan. Cook mushrooms until they are soft and beginning to brown, about 6 minutes. Add the wine and simmer at a medium boil until the wine is half evaporated: add the meat essence and cook for four minutes.
Pour the cooked polenta onto a serving plate and pour half the cheese over the polenta. Cover all with the mushroom sauce. Serve the remaining cheese on the side.
Pair with (Tocae) Friulano, Bodolino Rose, Barbaresco aged 5 years
Cook the polenta. Place the oil in a large saute pan and heat. Place the scallops flat side down in the saute pan. Brown the scallops on one side and remove from the pan. Melt the butter in the pan and add the mushrooms and the red onion. When the mushrooms become limp return the scallops to the pan browned side up. Add thyme, parsley and white wine to the pan. Simmer to reduce half the wine, add the lemon, salt and pepper and cook for two more minutes.
To Serve: Pour the polenta onto a serving platter or individual dishes. Place the scallops around the polenta and pour the sauce over all. If you wish, serve wedges of lemon.
Pair with Verdicchio, Soave, Costa d'Amalfi Rosato
Preheat oven 400 degrees
Pour half the polenta into a buttered ovenproof casserole. Drop the butter in the center, the gorgonzola, the taleggio, half the parmigiano and pour the remaining polenta over the cheese. Bake in the preheated oven for ten minutes. Allow the polenta to rest for five minutes and serve with the remaining Parmigiano Reggiano on the side. If you wish, the polenta may be turned out of the casserole onto a serving plate.
Pair with Valtelino Rosso, Lambrusco, Valpolicella
In a medium saucepan heat the olive oil. Cut the sausage into 1/4 inch pieces and add them to the hot oil. Lightly brown the sausage. Mix in the garlic and onions. Add the sliced mushrooms and cook until sausage, onion, garlic and mushrooms are nice and brown. Add salt and pepper . Mix in the basil, nutmeg and tomatoes. Add the wine and slow boil until liquid is half reduced. Add the broth and simmer for 20 minutes or until 1/2 reduced.
Pour the polenta onto a platter or a wooden polenta board. Cover with the Parmigiano Reggiano and pour the sausage mixture over the polenta.
Pair with Barolo aged 6 years, Amarone aged 4 years, Chianti Classico
Who doesn't like ham and cheese? Chef Richie introduced me to his favorite ham and cheese sandwich and it is now my favorite. It is addictive.
Cook the polenta and spread it onto a platter or sheet pan 1/4 inch thick and cool. Refrigerating overnight is good. Cut the polenta into 3 inch squares. Heat a skillet with a tiny bit of oil to cover. Place a slice of proscuitto onto a square of polenta, cover with a slice of fontina and top with another slice of polenta. Place the polenta sandwiches onto the hot skillet and brown on both sides. This can also be done on a flat top grill that was sprayed with oil.
Pair with Gattinara, Valle d'Aoste Petit Rouge, Dolcetto d'Alba
Make one recipe of polenta pour into a pan and let set. Make one recipe of tomato sauce. Cut polenta into 3" inch strips, and over lap in a baking dish. Cover polenta with the sauce, and sprinkle the cheese over the top. Bake in a preheated 450-dg. until golden brown, about 15 minutes.
Pair with Amarone, Brunello di Montalcino aged 5 years, Bardolino Rosso
This dish is excellent when you save polenta from a previous day. Chef Richie first enjoyed this dish with his grandfather who would always make twice the polenta needed and save half for breakfast the next day.
Cut polenta into 2&1/2-inch pieces and heat a large skillet. Carefully add the oil to the heated skillet and add the polenta pieces to the heated oil. Brown the polenta and turn over, add the sliced cotteghini to the skillet. Brown the sausage and turn. Break the eggs over the sausage and polenta. Cook sunny side up until the white has solidified. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Serve 2 eggs per person.
Pair with, for an early breakfast, coffee; for a brunch or later in the day, Prosecco dry, Trebiano, Lambrusco dry.
Follow instructions for basic polenta and make it firm. Butter the sides of a baking platter or deep ovenproof dish. Poor ½ of the cooked polenta into the baking dish, put ¾ of the cheese in the middle, cover the cheese with the remaining polenta and sprinkle the rest of the cheese over the top. It is best to let the polenta set for about 29 minutes, over night is OK. Bake in a 400-degree oven for about 45 minutes. Serve hot and the cheese will be running.
Pair with Barolo, Gattinar, Valle DAosta Rosso, Valle DAosta Rose (dry)