This New Season is proving interesting. Among the challenges is the fact that my refrigerator has a black hole. Leftovers saved with good intensions seem to be sucked into the depths of who knows where until eventually they reappear in almost unrecognizable form that cannot be saved for any purpose. My disdain of leftovers is not a new trait. When I had a leftover browser around, this was not much of a problem. They were devoured readily.
Now, I have to think ahead and work on downsizing recipes. One example was yesterday’s breakfast and a planned variation of a leftover that was almost perfect! I’ll explain that after posting the recipe.
I’ll be posting recipes with original serving quantities. Sometimes my narrative will explain how portions were reduced.
If you’ve read this blog before you have probably discovered I love green chile cheese grits with eggs for breakfast. I’ve posted many variations of my love of the runny egg yolks of poached eggs and my new love, jammy eggs with a firmer white and slightly firmer yolk. Be warned, there will likely be more.
Ground corn can be found in many colors and textures. We call a fine grind, corn meal. Depending on geography and language, coarser grinds can be called grits or polenta (in Italian). Grits can be wet as a breakfast cereal or side dish in the southern U.S. They can be an odd texture and bland taste to the uninitiated. When I first discovered grits on a road trip, I had to mix in one of those little packets of jelly to eat them. Before long, I graduated to butter and a light sprinkle of black pepper on grits.
Some of my back woods family introduced me to corn meal mush – very moist grits sometimes flavored with cane syrup, sometimes with a little red-eye gravy. One morning they served fried cornmeal mush -grits that had been allowed to set a spell and firm up in a pan, then be sliced and fried in pan drippings to have a firm browned crust and tender moist center. A perfect accompaniment to eggs and sausage as long as there were biscuits for sopping the plate.
In an early experience in a big city Italian restaurant several steps above the spaghetti and meat balls I knew as Italian food, I experienced polenta with a meaty marinara sauce topped with parmesan, and I don’t mean the cheese flavored sawdust in a green can. It was an epiphany . I swore off fried mush and devoted my palate to polenta and all the variations I could try or invent.
El Paso is not know for Polenta. Our ground corn becomes masa and is delectable in its own right in Mexican food.
I can get Bob’s Red Mill Polenta here and always pick some up when I find it. It comes in both yellow and white varieties. I personally prefer the yellow for the color on the plate
Basic Polenta with Gringo Gourmet OPTIONS
6 cups water
about… 1 tsp salt
2 cups polenta
about… 3 Tbsp butter NEVER MARGARINE
Bring water and salt to a boil in a large, deep pan. Gradually stir in polenta. Reduce heat and simmer gently. Stir frequently to prevent sticking until mixture is very thick (about 30 minutes). Use a long-handled spoon because mixture bubbles and pops. It is hot if it pops on you! Taste periodically to make sure polenta has softened; add liquid if it becomes too thick. You want it to be tender and thick, not sloppy wet.
Package recipe says: Stir in butter and add salt if needed. Oil a deep medium sized bowl. Spoon polenta into bowl and let set for 10 minutes. Invert onto a flat plate. Polenta will unmold and hold shape of bowl. Slice into thick slices and serve hot. Top with your favorite pasta sauce and freshly grated parmesan cheese.
Gringo Gourmet Options
When adding liquid to thin polenta, I use milk or, if feeling wicked, half and half and a little extra butter for a richer taste.
I like polenta and Jammy Eggs with cheese and green chile for breakfast. I thin the polenta a bit more, don’t let is set up, and, just before serving, stir in shredded cheddar cheese and chopped green chile or a good green jarred salsa, then top it with the eggs.
Sometimes, I just stir in some shredded cheddar or parmesan cheese before serving. Polenta is a great and flexible base for many toppings.
Remember the ratio is 3 measures of water to one measure of dry polenta so you can vary the amount you make at any given time. 1 1/2 cups water:1/2 cup polenta makes one generous serving.
In times of desperation, when I don’t have polenta in the house, I’ve been know to use plain corn meal to make a very smooth “polenta” or if a surprise guest arrives, I’ve stretched a pot of polenta by adding corn meal and extra liquid because the corn meal cooks faster.
Now, you ask (don’t you?), “What happened to the left over polenta?”
I saved the left over polenta. I put it in two oiled ramekins and topped it with plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator until time to prep dinner.
The polenta had set up very firm while I enjoyed breakfast. I added a little water to thin it out so I could spoon it into a pair of ramekins. I covered it with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge until time to prep dinner.
MISTAE! MISTAKE! MISTAKE! I should have left it out to set up again and I should not have put plastic wrap on it. This was polenta, not a custard that might develop a skin without the plastic wrap.
I coddled the “not quite set” polenta into an oiled pan and began cooking it over medium heat. It was taking a long time to dry out and I kept having to reshape it as it cooked. I finally was able to flip it over and work on the other side.
It browned somewhat and I was able to top it with the jarred sun dried tomato pesto, my pan blistered grape tomatoes and a sprinkle of grated parmesan. I transferred the patties to my plate and moved forward with plating the spinach and salmon.
I seasoned the salmon with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and lemon slices. The store portion was more narrow than the lemon slices, so I had to manipulate them to fit.
No gripes about the greens and mushrooms. I did add a light sprinkle of Fred’s Red Hot Sauce. That’s what we southerners do with our greens!
On the New Season adventure, I’ve decided it is better to pick up a serving a greens at a salad bar than to buy a large bag or tub of greens that won’t be used up. Better economics in the long haul. I choose a small jar of tomato pesto that I can finish over a larger jar of pasta sauce that would be destined for the black hole in the fridge.