April 7, 2010

Imagine, a polenta recipe as easy as a boxed cake

Old-school thinkers said polenta had to be time-consuming, but don't believe it and try this.

By RUSS PARSONS McClatchy Newspapers

(Continued from page 2)

POLENTA
click image to enlarge

polenta topped with braised chicken and sausage with green olives.

McClatchy Newspapers

POLENTA
click image to enlarge

How easy is polenta? Pour water into a wide, deep pot; stir in polenta; bake; stir; bake; stir and done.

McClatchy Newspapers

2. To serve, spoon the polenta into each of 6 warmed shallow pasta bowls. Serve immediately.

Each serving: 221 calories; 5 grams protein; 36 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams fiber; 5 grams fat; 3 grams saturated fat; 13 mg. cholesterol; 0 sugar; 465 mg. sodium.

WILD MUSHROOM SAUCE

Total time: 1 hour, plus soaking time for the dried mushrooms

Servings: 6

½ to 1½ ounces dried porcini mushrooms

2 cups hot water

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half

1 pound fresh mushrooms (cremini, portobello, white button or any mix), quartered

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons minced onion or shallot

½ cup dry white wine

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 teaspoon minced rosemary

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

½ teaspoon red wine vinegar, or to taste

Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1. In a medium bowl, cover the dried mushrooms with hot water and set aside to soak until rehydrated, at least 30 minutes.

2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil with the split cloves of garlic and cook over medium-high heat until the garlic begins to brown on all sides, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the fresh mushrooms and the salt and cook, stirring until the mushrooms give off their liquid, about 10 minutes. If the garlic begins to scorch, remove and discard it.

3. While the fresh mushrooms are cooking, lift the dried mushrooms from the soaking liquid with your hand, reserving the soaking liquid. Squeeze the mushrooms dry, draining the liquid back into the bowl and reserving it. Chop the dried mushrooms coarsely. Add to the cooked fresh mushrooms. Decant the soaking liquid through a strainer into a measuring cup, tilting it and pouring slowly to leave behind any grit in the bottom of the bowl. You should have 1½ to 2 cups.

4. Add the minced onion and increase the heat to high, until the mushrooms are nearly dry, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the white wine and cook until that evaporates, another 5 minutes.

5. Reduce the temperature to medium and stir in the tomato paste. Cook, stirring, until the paste is mixed in and has begun to toast, darkening and losing its raw smell, about 3 minutes. Add 1 ½ cups of the strained soaking liquid and gently simmer over medium-low heat until the mushrooms are silky and the juices are thickened and creamy, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Any extra mushroom broth can be refrigerated, tightly covered, and added to soup.

6. Stir in the rosemary and parsley. Taste and add just enough red wine vinegar to give the sauce depth. Add more salt if necessary. Keep warm until ready to serve.

7. To serve with polenta, spoon over about one-third cup of mushrooms per serving and sprinkle grated Parmigiano-Reggiano over top.

Each serving, without polenta: 95 calories; 4 grams protein; 7 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams fiber; 5 grams fat; 1 gram saturated fat; 0 cholesterol; 2 grams sugar; 416 mg. sodium.

BRAISED CHICKEN AND SAUSAGE WITH GREEN OLIVES

Total time: About 1 hour

Servings: 6

6 chicken thighs (about 2 pounds)

Salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 Italian sausages (about ¾ pound)

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup red wine

2 cups crushed tomatoes (about 2/3 of a 28-ounce can)

8 to 10 whole green olives

1/3 cup chopped parsley

1. Trim the chicken thighs of any excess skin and fat, pat dry and season lightly on both sides with a pinch of salt.

2. Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. When it is quite hot, add the chicken thighs, skin side down and brown well, about 15 minutes. If the chicken sticks to the pan, keep cooking: When the skin has browned enough, it will release. Turn and cook on the other side just until it loses its raw appearance, about 5 minutes. Remove to a plate and keep warm.

(Continued on page 4)

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