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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Creamy Polenta

Following along from my last post on the braised country pork ribs, it calls for a bed of creamy polenta when serving.  I've never had much luck making polenta.  I either make it too dry, or it has no flavor...I've only tried it a couple of times...and gave up.

I have high hopes for this recipe because Melissa d'Arabian said a chef told her to finish the polenta in a slow cooker for a no-fail method, using a 1:7 corn meal to liquid ratio.  Her recipe also calls for half-and-half, butter, and Parmesan cheese...part of my own personal holy trinity!  High hopes people!

The cornmeal I finally selected
The first challenge was finding the proper corn meal...my stop at the Port Isabel HEB garnered pre-made polenta on the "Italian foods" aisle (nope - that won't do) and had me moving on to the cornbread fixin's aisle, aka the baking aisle, where I found no coarse ground corn meal.  I didn't even find corn meal that had a recipe for polenta on the packaging.  I flip flopped on over to the breakfast cereal aisle and looked at the "grits"selections...no yellow grits.  So, I moseyed my way back to the "baking" aisle and looked at what I determined to be my best options.  One was a medium grind corn meal from Corsicana, Texas.  Probably would have been my first pick, except it expired in about 6 weeks...and I knew I was only using a small amount...and it was likely to go bad, resulting in my throwing it away.  So, I took the slightly more expensive but longer shelf-lifed option of a Stone Ground 100% whole grain cornmeal - medium grind.

It looked like the stuff I used to buy in Austin - the packaging was clear so I could see what I was buying.  Expiration date in mid-2012...with freezer storage and the assistance of my Food Saver seal for the bag after opening, this should be a winner and last long enough that I can use it multiple times.  I reckon I was wayyyy over-thinking the whole process...but I wanted to have the correct product!

So, onward towards the recipe....

CREAMY POLENTA
by Melissa d'Arabian

Ingredients:

Vegetable cooking spray
1 cup milk
1 1/3 cups half-and-half, divided
2 tablespoons butter, divided
1/3 cup coarse polenta, or corn grits
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
Special equipment:  Slow cooker

Method:

Spray the insert of a slow cooker with cooking spray (for easier cleanup) and preheat on high. (Note - if I had any brains I would have used a slow cooker liner - this looks like some hard-to-clean stuff...see the photo below at the 45 minute mark)

In a medium sauce pan, add the milk, 1 cup of the half-and-half, 1 tablespoon butter, and polenta. 

Polenta into the cold liquid
Season with salt and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking constantly to keep the mixture lump-free.  Boil for 2 to 3 minutes.  Pour the mixture into the slow cooker and cook on high for 2 hours, stirring once or twice per hour. 

At the 45 minute mark in the slow cooker -
I'm thinking I'll try it on low heat for the remaining time!
Once you are ready to serve, open the slow cooker and whisk in the remaining 1 tablespoon butter, remaining 1/3 cup half-and-half and the Parmesan cheese....um, okay...I confess, the last 1/3 cup was not half-and-half...it was whipping cream :-)  My own personal touch.  I think it made it extraordinary.

Also, my slow cooker is old...and high was too high for 2 hours.  I turned it down to low for the last hour and turned it off for the last 15 minutes of cooking time.  That was perfect for my slow cooker.  I was worried there was not going to be enough...but I was wrong.  It was the perfect amount for the base of my serving platter!  Verrry cheesy and rich.

I put this out on a serving platter and placed the ribs down on top of the polenta and ladled the reduced braising sauce over the ribs.  Really, really good stuff.


Braised Country Pork Ribs over Creamy Polenta -
the steamy heat makes for blurry photos...sorry!

I served this dish with Melissa's Roasted Balsamic Onions.  Another post coming your way for that one...

Bon Appetit, Y'all!StumbleUpon

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