Cooking With Ease

Polenta is one of those food items which lend itself well, when partnered with other recipes, to provide a hearty, stick-to-your-ribs meals.

I like to make polenta, and top it with stew or meat sauce. You can also top it with other dishes such as braise spare ribs or even for breakfast such as fontina and eggs.

I have provided a basic polenta recipe, as well as recipes for a couple other dishes which can top the polenta for a hearty meal.

BASIC POLENTA

Ingredients:

6 cups water

2 teaspoons salt

1.75 cups yellow cornmeal

3 tablespoons butter

— Bring water to a boil in a heavy large saucepan. Add 2 teaspoons of salt.

— Gradually whisk in the cornmeal. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the mixture thickens and the cornmeal is tender, stirring often, about 15 minutes.

— Turn off the heat. Add the butter, and stir until melted.

For creamier polenta, add one-half cup of heavy cream and decrease water by one-half cup.

Warning: As polenta cooks, it splashes molten hot polenta, and it can pop and burn your hands and arms while whisking.

BASIC STEW

1 pound stew lean meat

1 pound lean ground beef

Three carrots, peeled and cut into diagonal coins

Three russet potatoes, peeled and diced into 2-inch cubes

One small onion, peeled and sliced into half-moon shapes

48 ounces beef stock (you could also use broth)

One-quarter cup flour

3 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons Kitchen Bouquet

Salt and pepper to taste

— Brown stew meat and ground beef. When approximately halfway browned, add vegetables, and continue to cook.

— Add butter and flour, and cook into a rue. Make sure flour is completely cooked into the rue. Otherwise, you will wind up with a floury tasting stew.

— Add stock, sauces and seasonings, and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for at least one-half hour (it is better if you can simmer for one hour). Add more stock if it gets too thick.

BASIC MEAT SAUCE

Ingredients:

1 pound lean ground beef (I use 93% lean)

One medium to large onion, diced

One 24-ounce can of crushed tomatoes (use tomato sauce if you would like a smoother sauce, I like a bit of texture)

One 14.5-ounce can of diced tomatoes, undrained

Three cloves garlic, grated (use two cloves if you think three cloves is too strong)

3 tablespoons fresh basil, stemmed and chopped (reduce amount if using dried, as flavor is concentrated)

2 tablespoons fresh oregano, stemmed and chopped (reduce amount if using dried, as flavor is concentrated)

Salt and pepper to taste

— Brown ground beef and onion in a stock pot. Drain if necessary

— Add all other ingredients and bring to boil. Turn down heat and simmer for at least one-half hour. Add water if necessary, if too thick.

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