Sunday, August 3, 2008

Polenta to Keep You Warm in the Cold Summer Nights

I have been craving warm and creamy polenta since San Francisco weather has been colder and foggier than is even typical in July and August. So believe it or not, summertime in San Francisco is the time for comfort foods.

I decide to repeat a recipe from just a few weeks ago marinated chicken. I cook this part of dinner first since the meat cooks quickly and marinates after you broil it. The polenta will be quick but will require constant stirring. It will give the chicken plenty of time to marinate nicely.

I decide to round out the meal with steamed zucchini which will cook very quickly once the water boils. For now, I merely cut bit-sized pieces of zucchini and set up in the steamer. I won't turn it on until I have about five minutes left on the polenta.

Polenta is fairly neutral - a cornmeal mush really - but with a bit of butter and cheese added becomes a rich, creamy side dish. In a large, heavy kettle boil 6 1/2 cups of water. As it starts boiling, add 1 tablespoon of salt and turn the burner to medium low heat so that the water is just simmering. Add two cups of coarse-grained cornmeal in a fine stream - so that you can really almost see eat grain hitting the water - stirring with a wooden spoon. Continue stirring while adding all the polenta and then for the next 20 minutes. (Remember in the last five minutes turn on the burner under the zucchini.) The polenta is done when it tears away from the sides of the pot as you stir. Add 2 tablespoons of butter and 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese.

The marinated chicken is a bit sweet; the polenta is creamy and cheesy; and the zucchini is completely neutral. Together they complement each other nicely and satisfy the craving for comfort food - bonus dinner took less than forty minutes. There will be quite a bit of polenta leftover, put it into a bread pan and refrigerate. In this shape you can easily slice and fry the polenta which is what we will cover next.

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