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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Polenta with Sausage

Tonight I met a couple of previous employees for drinks on the way home from work. We met at Club Lago. Lago is this great old seedy mafia -esque club; complete with a scary stairway to the basement and 4th generation owners. Gin Tonics are served in the type of glasses that the Elk's Lodge used to use...actually probably still do! Like a miniature high-ball glass. Robert the bartender pours a great drink by the way. Lago was just featured in a Chinese comic book; I'm working on getting a copy. When I do, I'll post the pictures of the comic book.

While having drinks, Dave called me to find out what the dinner plan was. Not having a plan at this point, I quickly ran through the cupboards in my head...polenta, tomato and sausage. A couple friends overheard the polenta idea; one of them was excited about the idea and the other was quite disgusted with polenta (by the way, it was the girl who didn't like polenta, not the guy!) Here's my take on polenta: it's versatile and cheap and tastes great. Think about the base of Italian food, they use cheaper ingredient carbs as the base fillers, only topping these items with more expensive meats and cheeses. Plus, I love the idea of versatility -serving polenta as a thick, creamy grits-like substance or letting it set up and using it as an appetizer piece (topped with pesto, olives or whatever) or using it as a bread for a sandwich. Just grill it in the panini grill or on a barbecue grill - it gets those great lines and deepens the flavor - ah so good! Did I mention I love polenta? After finishing my free drink a nice patron bought me at Lago while hitting on so cute friend Lesley, I headed home to get cooking. Let me forewarn - if you are heading home after tossing a few back and you need food quickly, polenta probably should not be your first choice. Unless you have one of those 'tube polenta's', in which case I would still tell you to choose something else to eat.

Below is my basic recipe. Always keep in mind that I don't use recipes; I just make things up. But I'm working on changing that as well as trying take more pictures! Bare with me while I get used to these adjustments! So I will recreate this recipe again, and refine it; but the recipe below will get you close. Just remember, season to your liking and add or subtract the items you don't like!

7 cups of liquid per 1 cup of polenta (I use a combination of milk and water, feel free to use broth or all water, or all milk, or some cream). Start with a couple of cups in your pan; add the polenta slowly while whisking. This will help keep it from lumping! I the like to add the rest of the liquid as the polenta cooks, similar to risotto, if you've made that before. You will have to stir often so it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan. Expect this to take about an hour. When the polenta is creamy and completely melded together, take off the heat and add cheese. This particular night I added Parmesan as well as a soft french black pepper cheese. Wonderful!

In the meantime. cook one or two pieces of Italian sausage (I like spicy for this; use what you like. It's okay to use German sausage here. The Italian police are not going to come knocking on your door...probably not anyway. But use judgment on what neighborhood you live in!) Once the sausage is near done, add diced white or yellow onions. Sautee for a few minutes and add chopped garlic (adding the garlic earlier would yield a chance of burning it). Add in your dried spices at this point, basil or oregano and salt and pepper. Add in a can of chopped tomatoes and a few chopped black olives. Simmer until the polenta is ready.

To serve, place polenta in bottom of a wide bowl. Top with the sausage mixture and shredded Parmesan cheese (always use fresh!). Enjoy and be fat and happy!

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