Sunday, October 21, 2007

Polenta = Halloween?

Weekend Cookbook Challenge chose Halloween as this month’s theme. I had promised myself I would participate this time…but I am not much of a creative thinker. And I don't have a cake mold in the shape of a pumpkin, a witch or any other Halloween-y thing. I do have cats, but neither one is black. And I probably wouldn't cook them anyway. Unless they transform ANOTHER throw into rags. But I digress.

I couldn't think of a good Halloween food. Other than Milky Way bars. But I am NOT up to making those from scratch.

So here's about a 1 minute stream of consciousness on how I solved this dilemma:

I sat down with a cookbook that I've never opened.
I saw a recipe for Polenta.
I've never made Polenta.
I bet Polenta would be good.
Polenta's made from cornmeal
Cornmeal comes from corn.
Corn is a fall food.
Halloween's in the fall.
I'll make Polenta!

Cornmeal comes from corn? My genius knows no bounds.

Crispy Polenta with Mushrooms, from Cooking for Two by Bruce Weinstein & Mark Scarbrough

1 1/2 tsp unsalted butter at room temperature, plus additional for buttering the pan
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup coarse yellow cornmeal
2 Tbsp freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
8 ounces cremini or white button mushrooms, cleaned and thinly sliced
6 Tbsp dry vermouth
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp dried chopped rosemary
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

  1. 1.) Butter a 1 quart round soufflé dish; set aside. I don't own a souffle dish, so I used my corningware – the point is to let the polenta set in something round.

  2. 2.) Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Stir in 1 Tbsp of the cornmeal with a wooden spoon, then immediately reduce the heat to low. Continue adding tablespoonfuls of the cornmeal, stirring each in before adding the next. Once all the cornmeal has been added, reduce the heat to very low and continue cooking for about 15 minutes, stirring constantly, until the polenta begins to leave a film on the bottom and sides of the saucepan. In these small quantities, polenta can scorch, so keep the flame heat low and stir constantly.

  3. Stir in 1 1/2 tsp butter, the cheese, and 1/4 tsp of the salt. Pour the hot polenta mixture into the prepared dish. Set aside to cool and firm up for at least 30 minutes while you prepare the mushrooms. Heat a medium skillet or sauté pan over medium heat. Swirl in 1 Tbsp of the olive oil, then add the onion. Cook for 3 minutes, or until golden, stirring frequently. Add the mushrooms and continue cooking for about 5 minutes, or until they release their liquid and it is nearly evaporated, stirring constantly.

  4. Add the vermouth, tomato paste, thyme and rosemary; bring the mixture to a simmer. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes, or until thickened like a sauce. Stir in the remaining 1/4 tsp of salt and the pepper. Set aside off the heat, covered to keep warm.
  5. Run a knife around the sides of the polenta to release it from the casserole dish. Turn the
    polenta out onto your work surface and cut it, like a pie, into 6 even wedges. Heat the remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil in a medium skillet or sauté pan set over medium heat. When the oil begins to smoke, carefully add the polenta wedge. Fry for about 4 minutes, or until lightly browned and crisp, turning once.

  6. To serve, divide the wedges between two plates. Spoon the mushroom sauce around and over them. Serve immediately.


michelle said...

I love polenta! :) And I think polenta is very Fall-ish and therefore just perfect for Halloween! Your line of thinking was right on target.

Thanks so much for participating!

Sara said...

i agree with our lovely hostess - polenta and mushrooms sound wonderful. thanks for taking part in wcc this month!

Deborah said...

Thanks Michelle and Sara - I was glad to find an exuse to finally try polenta. :)

Jade said...

I've never made polenta either (not from scratch anyway :) You've inspired me!

Deborah said...

Jade, I was suprised at how simple the polenta was. It's definitely something I'm going to experiment with. My husband actually prefers it without any sauce.

Colleen said...

Ok, that's it. Once I saw 'polenta' and 'mushrooms' in the same sentence, I didn't even finish reading the rest of the recipes (but I will)!!

I grew up on polenta - I love mushrooms. People don't realize how EASY polenta is! Literally, you can't hardly screw up. ;)

If we're voting, then I'd have to give my vote to this faBOO recipe!

Colleen, Naperville, IL.