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pastameshugana

Polenta 1st timer needing guidance

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So I've yet to ever cook with polenta, so I bought some to experiment with. I got the 'pre-cooked' package this time to simplify things.

What should I make first?

Other ingredients on hand: A couple of racks of pork ribs (on sale!), lots of great frozen hatch chilies, all kinds of root veg and aromatics.

I'm jonesing to use the ribs, green chile AND polenta, but so far have come up with nothing inspirational. Any ideas?

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Jenni   

So have you got a solid block of pre cooked stuff yeah? My fav thing made from polenta I ate at a restaurant once was fried polenta topped with nicely cooked mushrooms in a little sauce.

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Mjx   

I'm not huge fan of polenta, but its blandness makes it a great foil for a game ragù (I'm thinking wild boar, in particular, which is very traditional); working with the ingredients you have, you could give the ribs a treatment that leaves the meat extremely tender, in a concentrated reduction of the aromatics, with the chilies added at the end.

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weinoo   

Something quite saucy, as mjx mentions above, works nicely, Even just a tomato sauce.

But do yourself a favor...try the real stuff. It's not that difficult to make, and it's light years beyond the pre-cooked.

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In Barbados they serve something called cou cou - which is essentially polenta cooked with okra. They serve it with "butter sauce" which is a 'gravy' made with tomatoes, onions, garlic, herbs and butter.

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Jenni   

Oh, cou cou! But the OP would need to make their own from scratch for that, cannot use ready made.

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One of my favorite polenta toppers comes out of Cooks Magazine from the 1980s (very different than the current Cooks) -- it's basically bacon, sausages and mushrooms cooked together, pan deglazed with some wine, then topped with a gremolata (finely minced parsley, lemon and garlic) and served over polenta, either soft or fried. The earthiness of the meats/mushrooms is great with the dull sweet taste of the corn, all brightened by the gremolata. Wow, wish I had some right now!

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slkinsey   

Sauteed chicken livers.

But I have to agree with Mitch (hold the presses!). The pre-cooked tubes of polenta are awful. If you want to like polenta and would like to want to have it again, chuck the tube and go out and buy some quick-cooking polenta (most polenta sold nowadays is the quick-cooking variety). It cooks up in about 5 minutes and is way better than any polenta you'll ever get out of a tube. There's no more need to buy precooked polenta than there is to buy precooked grits or precooked oatmeal.

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Franci   

Not all the quick cooking polenta are the same as well. Valsugana is pretty bad, Moretti precooked is decent.

I'll add that the thickness of the polenta is very personal too. I never follow the instructions on packages. I bring some water to boil, add salt (and try the water, need to be just right to me), lower it to simmer and start pouring the polenta in a thin stream, while whisking. I personally stop when looks custard creamy, it will get stiffer. At the beginning the polenta will splatter, so carefull . Even the quickcooking a generally cook longer, 8-10 minutes, stirring. I make sure the bottom of the pan has a nice crust and I can smell "cooked" polenta. Then dip a spatula in water and gather the polenta and flip on a wooden board. I like to cover with a dump towel to give a nice shape to it.

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qrn   

my grandmother ,from the Dolomites,used to make polenta with salt cod in a white sauce,still remember it as fantastic,even though it was the 1940,s

Bud

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janeer   

I too recommend making real polenta. I do like it chilled, cut, and fried with tomato sauce. But I am also very fond of a recipe in the Olive's (Todd English) cookbook for a polenta with golden raisins. God, it's good.

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I would brown the pork ribs, you can do this in a ripping 500 degree oven until they are a deep brown. Meanwhile saute some onions in olive oil, in a dutch oven or pot big enough to house the ribs with the lid on, until they get some golden color. Add some smashed garlic and deglaze with some red wine scraping the bottom of the pan that you cook the ribs on and transfer to the dutch oven or pot. I would then add the ribs to the pot, season with salt and pepper and then braise them tightly covered in the oven at 200 degrees f in the oven for 6 hours or more. After the six hours you should be checking more for texture rather than done-ness and this should conform to your taste -- you can continue to cook them until they are fall of the bone tender if that is your taste. If you do this the day before it will be better the day you cook it.

As for the treatment of the polenta you can heat based on the package instruction since they are pre-cooked. Taste for seasoning you may need to add salt and pepper. Then you can spread on a small sheet pan or casserole dish into a even layer. You can that put it in the fringe oven night it should firm up -- I don't know if they put something pre-cook that might prevent this gelling of starches. You can then cut it into serving size portions. These can sautéed in a little butter to great effect.

I believe as many other posters have implied that everyone should have uncooked/dried polenta in their pantry -- assuming they like polenta.

Hope this is helpful.

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barolo   

I agree with others that it is very easy to cook polenta so there's no value in buying the pre-cooked stuff.

However you have a package of cooked polenta, so you may as well use it. It is good fried or grilled with something savory and saucy on it. Think of cornbread if that's something you are familiar with. To me pork, chilies and polenta sound like an excellent combination.

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Pierogi   

To me, the pre-cooked, tubes of polenta and the stuff you make "from scratch", are two entirely different products, and they each have their place. The tubed stuff works great for a quick side, in a riff on lasagne layered with cheese and sauce, pan-fried in butter and dressed with herbs, etc. But it will not replace the soft, unctuous, creamy delight that is polenta made with cornmeal and broth (or water, or milk) with a little cheese stirred in at the very end. THAT polenta is what you want under short ribs, or a ragu made with great meat, or the mushrooms, or the chicken livers if you must. You *can* take any leftovers from THAT polenta, and refrigerate it and have something similar to the tube 'o' polenta, but it will also be a superior product.

Still, I have the tubed stuff in my pantry, and use it often enough to consider it a staple.

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Thanks to all for the great tips/advice. Socrates that sounds like a fantastic meal - definitely on my to do list. Pierogi, I also love the lasagna riff you suggest - time to get to work!

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GRoston   

One of my favorite polenta toppers comes out of Cooks Magazine from the 1980s (very different than the current Cooks) -- it's basically bacon, sausages and mushrooms cooked together, pan deglazed with some wine, then topped with a gremolata (finely minced parsley, lemon and garlic) and served over polenta, either soft or fried. The earthiness of the meats/mushrooms is great with the dull sweet taste of the corn, all brightened by the gremolata. Wow, wish I had some right now!

Sylvia,

Could you please track down/post this recipe?

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One of my favorite polenta toppers comes out of Cooks Magazine from the 1980s (very different than the current Cooks) -- it's basically bacon, sausages and mushrooms cooked together, pan deglazed with some wine, then topped with a gremolata (finely minced parsley, lemon and garlic) and served over polenta, either soft or fried. The earthiness of the meats/mushrooms is great with the dull sweet taste of the corn, all brightened by the gremolata. Wow, wish I had some right now!

Sylvia,

Could you please track down/post this recipe?

Well, my memory's going. It was actually from the October 1984 Cuisine magazine, a recipe by Marie Simmons. No idea where the original is anymore, but I had an adaptation in my book, as follows:

Polenta cooked (I like it with parmesan and jack stirred in)

2 oz dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in boiling water for 30 minutes

1-1/2 lbs sweet Italian sausage

1/2 cup boiling water

EVOO

1 pound button mushrooms or similar, sliced

1/4 cup dry red wine

2 T finely chopped flat leaf parsley

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 t lemon zest, minced.

Drain the dried mushrooms, chop them, strain the soaking liquid and set aside. Prick the sausages and put them in a large skillet with the boiling water. Cover and simmer about 8 minutes, then uncover and cook until sausages are browned. Remove from pan and keep warm. Pour off most fat, add some olive oil, add the two mushrooms and saute until the mushrooms are cooked through. Stir in the wine and a few tablespoons of the mushroom soaking liquid and reduce until syrupy. Slice the sausages into bite size piece, add them to the mushrooms and stir to blend and heat through. Make the gremolata by mincing together the parsley, garlic and lemon. Stir the gremolata into the sausage/mushroom mixture and saute for a minutes until fragrant. Taste for seasoning and correct. Serve with warm and creamy polenta.

You can make it without the dried mushrooms if you don't have them, change up the mushrooms to your taste, change the sausage, etc. But it's basically a very simple dish and really delicious.

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Snadra   

When I'm in the mood for mashed potatoes, but can't be bothered with the peeling and mashing I often make polenta instead as it is pretty unfussy and still has that soft texture. Plus, like Pierogi pointed out, you can use the leftovers and some ragu to make an ersatz and delicious lasagne.

I make a sort-of paprikash that works well with it, as does any wine-stewed meat. And frankly it's also quite good with a simple tomato sauce, or a sort-of ratatouille. Or sausages and onion gravy. You can also do a polenta version of roman gnocchi with it. But I love it best with http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Georgian-Pork-Stew-103831.

And it works as a hot breakfast cereal too, if you're bored of oats.

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Just by coincidence, I made some polenta from a tube last night. I pan fried it in some oil and butter until it was crispy brown on both sides and topped it with a garlic, onion and butter and dry white wine cooked until reduced, then added some tomato sauce and provolone cheese. It was OK. I also think freshly made is better.

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Jmahl   

Try this recipe: New York Times – September 20, 2009, Polenta With Goat Cheese and Rosemary - You will not be sorry.

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Love polenta----ultimate comfort food. Quick tip if you haven,t Made it from the box. Measure out the amount you want, put it in a bowl or large cup and add enough cold water to give it a drench----enough to moisten, but not make soupy. This will keep it from getting clumpy { which is easy to happen if it is introduced dry into boiling water.

Favorite topping is pasta meat sauce cut into the polenta and topped with grated Romano cheese (gone to heaven)

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