Adventures of an unfussy foodie.

April 24, 2012

Reader Request: Crispy Polenta with Vegetable Ragu


Take a little gander at the upper right corner of the blog over there. Do you see my weekly menu?
Andrea noticed it, and she wanted me to post my recipe for Crispy Polenta with Vegetable Ragu, which I had on the menu for Sunday dinner last week. So, this is for you, Andrea!

If you ever see something you'd like to try over there, but can't find it listed in the Recipe Index, just let me know, and I'll do my best to get a post together in short order. I mean, I'm making it anyway, right? :)

We had friends over for dinner on Sunday, so I wanted to make something a little special, but not too much work. This fit the bill. I did a lot of the leg work the night before, so things came together within an hour the day of.

Here's how you do it:

The night before, cook up your polenta and let it cool. While it cools, it will kind of gel up and become firm. Once cooled, cover with plastic wrap, and chill until needed. Then you can slice it into whatever shape you like and use it in your favorite application (including Polenta Parmesan, just sayin').

You can also make your ragu the night before and reheat, or, as I did, prep your veggies the night before and throw everything in the pot the day of.

(A confession about me and entertaining: I'm always forgetting at least one thing, and I spend the whole night kicking myself. In this case, I forgot both the mushrooms and the basil. It was good without them, but would have been even better if I had remembered! [facepalm])

Crispy Pan-Fried Polenta
PRINTABLE RECIPE

Ingredients:
2 c. polenta meal
1 tsp. salt
6 c. water
1 Tbsp. butter
4 oz. cream cheese or mascarpone
1/4 c. finely grated parmesan
additional salt and pepper to taste


olive oil for pan-frying


Directions:
Measure your polenta meal into a small bowl (I like to use my liquid measuring cup because it has a handle and spout for easy pouring). Set aside. In a large, deep pan over high heat bring water and sea salt to a boil, then whisk in polenta slowly, a little at a time -- if you dump it all in at once, clumps will form and that's no good. Reduce heat to low and simmer gently, stirring frequently to prevent sticking until mixture is very thick and no longer gritty when tasted. (Use a long-handled spoon to stir because the mixture pops and bubbles and can burn. Like lava.)

Stir in butter, cream cheese or mascarpone, and parmesan. Remove pot from heat once cheeses are incorporated. Taste and add more salt, if needed, and pepper to taste.

Grease a 9x13" baking pan, and pour your polenta into it, spreading it evenly along the pan. Almost immediately, the mixture will begin to firm up. Leave it on the counter until cool, then cover and refrigerate until you're ready to pan-fry it for serving.

When you're ready to get them crispy, arm yourself with a large, nonstick sautee pan, olive oil, and a pastry brush. Set the pan over medium-high heat. Drizzle generously with oil, and let heat until the oil just begins to smoke.

This is a smaller pan I used the next day to get some step-by-step shots -- I used my biggest pan the night of and still had to fry them up in two batches.
While the pan is heating, slice your polenta into whatever shape pleases you (you could even use cookie cutters to get rounds or make fun shapes for the kiddos). I cut mine into eight squares, then cut those squares in half diagonally for pretty triangles. Brush the top of the polenta with oil, then place as many squares as you can fit into your pan, oil side down. Brush the other side with oil as it cooks.


Let it cook until golden -- this will take a few minutes -- then flip and get it golden on the other side.


While it's cooking, it will smoke a little, but also sputter and pop a lot, so hide ya kids, hide ya wife. I strapped my little man into his highchair so he would be out of harm's way. Also, be sure to wear an apron.

That makes it sound scary, but it's not, really.


If you're frying up the whole pan of polenta, it may take more than one batch in the fry pan. If that's the case, heat your oven to 200º and have a baking sheet in there waiting to keep the ones you cooked first nice and warm and crispy.


Easy Vegetable Ragu
PRINTABLE RECIPE

Ingredients:
1 or 2 Tbsp.olive oil
1 onion, diced large or thinly sliced
1 rib celery, sliced
1 carrot, peeled and sliced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 or 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 red bell pepper, diced
4 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced
2 medium zucchini (or one zucchini and one yellow squash), quartered and sliced
pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
1, 28 oz. can crushed or diced tomatoes
1, 6.5 oz. jar marinated artichokes, drained and roughly chopped
1 or 2 sprigs each rosemary, marjoram or oregano, and thyme, tied together with kitchen twine
parmesan rind, optional
salt and pepper to taste
4 or 5 large basil leaves, sliced

Directions:
In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add in onion, celery, and carrot and sautee until onions are translucent (a couple minutes ir so). Add garlic and cook a minute more. Clear a little spot in the pan and add the tomato paste there. Let it warm up for a second or two before mixing things all together. Add peppers and mushrooms and cook for a minute, then add zucchini. If you like it on the spicy side, add some red pepper flakes at this point. (I don't, but it's tasty if you're into that sort of thing.) Cook and stir to get some color on the veggies, and then add tomatoes, artichokes, herbs, and parmesan rind if you have one. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer, cover, and let cook until veggies are tender but not mushy -- half an hour should be plenty of time.

{While the ragu is simmering, get working on crisping the polenta. That way everything is ready at the same time-ish.}

When ready to serve, dig out the bundle of herbs and the parmesan rind (no one wants those on their plate). Add basil, taste and adjust seasoning as desired.

Serve over the crispy polenta, with shards of parmesan and chopped parsley to garnish.

Yum!






4 comments:

  1. Great instructions! This is going on my menu next week. Though I think I'll use store bought polenta to skip the cheese. Do you think the store bought is OK?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You could certainly use pre-made polenta from the store. You can also make polenta from scratch at home with just water, salt and pepper, and polenta meal, which is the same thing they sell except you can season it to your liking. If you also want to avoid butter, you can stir in some olive or coconut oil to make it a little more creamy. Hope that helps!

      Delete
  2. Thanks for taking the time to post this--and just for me! I can't wait to try it. I'll report on how it turns out!

    ReplyDelete

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