A Polenta Feast

A polenta dinner

Sunday I had guests over for an impromptu dinner. I was mulling over what I should serve, trying to come up with something a little more fancy than pasta or burgers, when the eater suggested we have polenta. While this is a rather vague and wide-open suggestion, I had just the thing in mind with her suggestion: baked polenta with broccoli rabe and sausage with a side of confited tomatoes.

As usual in the foodgeek household, when I want something different and interesting, I have to make a trip to the supermarket to procure all the goods. Sometimes this is a bad thing. You see, when my creative juices start flowing I tend to start adding extra dishes, coupled with the fact that I’m often hungry when I go shopping for these impromptu dinner parties, I buy way too much. Yes, I did it again. So to go along with the polenta and the tomatoes, I also picked up four pounds of mahogany clams, a side of pollack, and half a pound of prosciutto.

While I was waiting in line for a price on the clams I concocted this idea to wrap pollack, a lean white fish, in prosciutto. It worked with scallops, it worked with shrimp, it worked this time, too. I portioned the pollack into two-bite sized pieces and wrapped each one up in the wonderful Italian pork product. They were lined up like soldiers in a small casserole dish, drizzled with olive oil, and seasoned with black pepper. I figured on about 15 minutes in a 375F oven would do the trick and I was not disappointed.

Mahogany clams always seem to be a good bargain. They seem to be less prized because when they are cooked they almost completely open and do not look as pretty. This one little drawback isn’t enough to scare me away from these delicate, orange fleshed quahogs. These are deep, cold water clams and, like most things that live in sand, are sometimes a little bit gritty. I washed the clams, then again, then left them in a big pot of water, then washed them again, and then again. While you would think that this would produced a sand-free clam, there were still a few bits of sand and grit here and there. I figured my guests would understand the few bits of sand, I really did try my best to provide a sand-free experience.

The clams got a quick steam in white wine, garlic, and ginger. When they were all opened up, I removed the clams, reduced the liquid, and fortified it was some butter. This sauce was poured over the awaiting clams for everyone to enjoy.

I just so happened to have a pint of grape tomatoes leftover from my trip to the Reading Farmers market on Tuesday. These were some of the sweetest grape tomatoes I’ve had in a while. They were the perfect match for a quick tomato confit. I know this isn’t exactly an authentic confit, but the name has stuck. I slow cook the tomatoes with a few cloves of garlic in olive oil in a small pan. When the tomatoes were softed and warm, I drizzled a little balsamic vinegar over the top and put them aside to cool. By the time we ate, they were room temperature and fully infused with flavor. They were a good topping for the polenta.

The main attraction was actually quite simple to prepare. While I was bathing the clams several times over I whipped up a quick batch of polenta. Polenta is nothing more than boiled corn meal. It is a really easy dish to prepare and I rarely use a recipe. This time I boiled up 3 cups of milk with half a stick of butter. When the milk came to a boil and the butter was fully melted, I started adding in cornmeal. I just keep adding it in until the mixture becomes a thick, yet smooth, mixture. I then cook this over medium low heat while continuously stirring. This can be quite a workout but it is worth it in the end. I then turned the whole mess into a 1/4 sheet pan, covered it with some shredded Pecorino Romano cheese and baked it in the oven until it was good and firm with a nice crispy crust on top.

I topped the polenta off with some pan fried, sweet Italian, fennel flavored sausages. I didn’t mind too much that it was creating a mess in my frying pan, I had plans for that wonderful brown fond! When the sausages were perfectly cooked, I added some extra olive oil and quickly sauteed the broccoli rabe. All of the glorious sausage juices and fond in the pan were quickly absorbed by the greens tying the whole dish together.

Everything got served family-style and didn’t last all that long. While I wish I could cook like this every day, I fear that I would either go broke or fall hopelessly out of shape.

Previous Topic
Next Topic

Reader Feedback

3 Responses to “A Polenta Feast”

  • Amrita says:

    Hi jef!

    Nice to see you back!

    By the way, I’ve tagged you! Check my blof out for the details/rules…..It’s quite fun 🙂


  • amrita says:

    Everytime i think of polenta, I think of it looking like french fries…you know, whenyou chill it, cut it into sticks and fry it?

  • BC says:

    I usually think of polenta with stews or with fontina in it. But I love the idea of a lighter infused tomato sauce. Hmmm, maybe leftover grilled polenta with the tomatoes?

Leave a Reply