Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Creamy Polenta with Parmesan and Sausage

During my junior year of college, my life was majorly altered when I decided to study abroad for a semester.  I traveled with a group of 12 others to the Mediterranean island of Malta, spending six months in a different culture - learning a lot about myself (Did I really want to be an English major?  Would Amsterdam be a good country to be exiled in?  Do I really have to go home?  When do I get to go home?), learning a lot about other cultures and living with three extraordinary other women.  My flatmates were named Heather (the lady who ran the hotel gym across the street always called her "Heeter," I still call her Heeter), Gretchen (I usually just refer to her as "G") and Andrea - we called her "D."

While I have incredible stories about our times as a group and my times spent individually with these great people, this particular dish reminded me of Heather.  Although D and I would sometimes commandeer the kitchen and make stuff that reminded us of our Midwest roots, Heather was the spontaneous and adventurous one who was on a first-name basis with the butcher down the street, the green grocer who was around the corner and taught me how to de-ink a squid in our flat's kitchen.  She was also the first person to introduce me to polenta, which I would cheekily call "Pacino."   And while I remember little about what she served polenta with or if I even liked polenta the first time I tried it (there were few of Heather's dishes that I didn't like, so I'm sure I loved my Pacino too), this dish reminds me of when I was younger, a little more reckless, actually liked seafood, had access to wine that I would kill for now and of my dear friends.  I love each and every one of you ...

Creamy Polenta with Parmesan & Sausage
by Mark Bittman - New York Times

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 good-quality sweet Italian sausages (I ended up using chicken sausages with roasted red pepper in 'em ... divine!)
1 cup medium-to-coarse cornmeal
1/2 to 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, or to taste
2 tablespoons butter
Freshly ground black pepper.

My sausages were pre-cooked and only needed to be heated, so if you need to cook your sausages - here's the directions for that:  Put oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add sausages and cook, turning occasionally, until well browned on all sides and cooked through, about 20 minutes. Set aside.

Meanwhile, put cornmeal in a medium saucepan along with 1 cup water and whisk well to make a slurry; continue whisking mixture to eliminate any lumps. Put pan over medium-high heat, sprinkle with salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and continue to cook, whisking frequently and adding water as needed to keep mixture loose and free of lumps, between 3 and 4 more cups. If mixture becomes too thick, simply add a bit more water; consistency should be similar to sour cream’s.

Polenta will be done in 15 to 30 minutes, depending on grind. Add cheese and butter. Taste and add salt, if necessary, and lots of pepper; serve topped with sausages.

Yield: 4 servings.

Here's my take on polenta as a 31-year-old ... while it will never replace mashed potatoes as my comfort food of choice, it is still pretty damn good.  And like most dishes - it tastes better the second day when the flavors really get a chance to meld together.  I actually ate the leftovers for breakfast over the next couple of mornings - it was hearty and filling.

1 comment:

A. Sundberg said...

I'm sorry - I can't look at this photo without laughing. When are you going to come visit me?