Sunday, January 11, 2009

Polenta and Stew on my Table

I love a crazy variety of food. I tend to especially like dishes inspired in the Mediterranean regions, the Middle East, and Mexico. This dish is a combination of a tex-mex style stew with an Italian favorite: Polenta.

Two reasons for this meal tonight: (1)I accidentally bought coarse corn meal, and I needed to use it up! and (2)While watching the Iron Chef the other night my husband was insisting that, despite being married to me for nearly 17 years, he didn't know what polenta was (I am sure I've made it before but apparently it wasn't very memorable!).

We'll start with the Polenta, which is basically cooked, and shaped corn meal.

You can use ANY corn meal for this though coarse works great for it.

Start by mixing 2 cups of corn meal into 2 cups of cold water, and get rid of the lumps. In this case, since I was going Tex-Mex with the stew, I added some spices. You don't have to. I threw in some frozen cilantro, onion powder, chili powder, and hot pepper flakes.

Bring 4 cups of water or broth to a boil (in this case, I used water, though I like it with broth). Pour in your soaked corn meal (With water), and bring it up to a slow boil, then turn it down for a simmer, stirring frequently. Add 1-2 T of olive oil. When it starts to pull from the sides of the pot a little bit, it's done.

Now, we need somewhere to pour our polenta to let it form. This will take on whatever shape you put it in. In this case, I'm using bread pans, because I want to slice it into bars. I lightly oiled the pans (I am using the silicone pans as it seems to come out easier in this...if using metal, line it with waxed paper or something similar, just to get it out easier.

Cover and chill for an hour, or just let it cool for a few hours in the pan. It's tone when it is firm enough to handle and slice.

Slice as desired (you can even use cookie cutters), and lightly brown/fry them on a lightly greased non stick pan ( can also eat them as is). Also good on one of those indoor griddle things if you are so blessed :-)

The stew was just some stewing beef, onions, peppers, hominy, red beans, black beans and diced tomatoes, along with some chili seasonings (cumin, chili powder, hot pepper, some hot sauce) and I let it simmer for awhile. I served it with some green onions and the polenta.

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