Polenta in August

Q: A veritable avalanche of requests came in for the polenta recipe I mentioned a while ago, despite the fact that it’s summer and sweltering all over. Maybe my Australian friends can cook it now, and the rest of you remember it come January.

A: The short answer to the question of how I cook Polenta with Gorgonzola and Pecans is, I cook the polenta, add some gorgonzola, and toss pecans on top. Quantities vary depending on whether I want the polenta soupy or firm, if the people at the table like gorgonzola or merely tolerate it, and how many pecans I can scrape together in my nuts bin.

The more detailed answer is, buy a good, coarse polenta such as Bob’s Red Mill stone-ground. These days I start with a cup of meal, which gives me enough for three or four and some left for a second dinner. I use a combination of chicken stock, water, white wine, and a bit of milk for creaminess, but you can use whatever liquid you like.

Polenta is best cooked slowly, but if you’re in a hurry you can do it in twenty minutes (I am a firm believer in the One Hour Meal, from taking an onion from the bin—and I can’t imagine a dinner that doesn’t begin with chopping an onion—to putting the finished product on the table.) You need to stir it often, preferably with a wooden spoon that has a flat end so the thick stuff doesn’t glue itself too irrevocably to the pan. As it thickens, you can decide if you want a soft, almost runny texture or one that stands up like a dollop of mashed potatoes, and add liquid accordingly.

While the cornmeal is cooking, throw a handful (okay, half a cup, more or less) of pecans into a frying pan. You can use pieces or entire halves, whichever you like, although if they’re large nuts you might want to break or chop them coarsely. Fry them for a few minutes, stirring often, until they’re showing spots of toasty brown, then dump them out of the pan so they stop cooking.

When it’s done, and you’re nearly ready to serve, throw in a handful of crumbled Gorgonzola cheese, let it soften a little, stir once or twice to mix it, then pour (or spoon) the polenta into its serving bowl, or onto the plates if that’s how you’re doing it. Sprinkle more gorgonzola on top, along with the pecans.

With a varied group, I use less cheese and nuts, but cook more pecans and put out small bowls of the cheese and the pecans, so people can add as much as they like to their serving.

And if the other dishes you’re serving make the polenta look pallid, you can add a couple large handfuls of chopped spinach or arugula (1-2 cups) during the last five minutes of cooking, both of which go nicely with the cheese, look good, and boost your leafy-greens count for the day.

And when you’re finished, you can reheat the polenta (microwave’s fine, it just needs to soften) and spread it out in a square, flat pan or dish to store in the fridge. The next day, cut it into squares or wedges, brush with oil or spray with cooking spray and heat in a moderate oven for half an hour, turning over halfway. When they’re brown and crisp on the outside, you can serve them with a tomato sauce in which you’ve put vegetables, leftover chicken, or what have you.

And of course, another sprinkle of cheese on top, maybe parmesan.

Happy now?

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  1. Kerry on August 5, 2007 at 2:01 pm

    Definitely happy! I can’t wait to try it, especially with the greens as an addition.

  2. corgimom on August 5, 2007 at 2:34 pm

    Happy and drooling! Thanks!

  3. Sara on August 5, 2007 at 9:18 pm

    I had a question about the artwork submission- what if it would need multiple pictures to view the whole? (It cannot be scanned in- could it be mailed snail-mail?) Please help! Thanks much.

  4. vicki on August 6, 2007 at 3:20 am

    Sara–I think multiple images would probably be fine. Email the images to info@laurierking.com and we’ll get it figured out. 🙂

  5. vicki on August 6, 2007 at 3:23 am

    Is it just my browser or does that smiley face really have a mustache and eyebrows??

  6. […] editor has to eat, and it’ summer, after all. So here’s a recipe that can go nicely with that Polenta recipe I gave you a while back, or by itself. And it’s a great way to use a few quarts of those gorgeous […]

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