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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Almost Wordless Wednesday: Polenta!

Almost Wordless Wednesday: Polenta!: "A Paiolo, with Polenta

Yes, polenta is corn meal mush, and it was (and still is) a winter staple in Northern Italy. The standard recipe says to stir it slowly in a paiolo, or copper pot, as it thickens, and Italians who follow this course generally buy a motor-driven paiolo of the sort shown here, which I picked up on sale in a supermarket years ago. If you don't have a pot of this kind, however, all is not lost.

John, who lives outside Milano, adds his cornmeal to the water when it boils, seals the pot, and barely simmers it for 40 minutes, while Remo's grandmother taught him to make polenta in a slow cooker. In other words, you can stir, if you want, but you can also go about your business while the polenta cooks on its own.

Got polenta? Polenta is a foil, on a par with bread, and begs an accompaniment. If you're being quite simple, good olive oil, a sprinkle of sea salt, and a wedge of mild pecorino toscano is very good, but people usually want more, especially in the cooler winter months. Stew, for example:

  • Spicy Braised Beef With Polenta
    Though this packs a punch, the sauce and the polenta go together beautifully. Should you prefer it less hot, reduce the pepper content.

  • Lo Stufato Dell'Adriana
    Simple home cooking, a pork and beef stew that simmers for hours, warming the house, and then the table.

  • Carne da Galera, or Jailhouse Meat
    The name comes from the fact that the cuts involved are less noble, and tended to go bad quickly in the days before refrigeration. Hence this herb-laden pot-roasting method, which was able to cover any off smells the meat might have developed.

  • Pastissada di Manzo, Beef Pastissada
    Pastissada is an old Veronese stew that draws from Austro-Hungarian tradition (Verona was a part of the Empire for a long time) and brings goulash to mind. Most of the recipes I've seen call for horse meat, but this one is beef based.

And what to serve with you polenta and stew? The combination begs a substantial red wine. An Amarone, for example, and here you will find my notes for the 2005 vintage, which is currently in stores. Curious about 2006? I went to the vintage presentation two weeks ago, and here is a selection of the 2006 wines that impressed me the most.

Almost Wordless Wednesday: Polenta! originally appeared on Italian Food on Wednesday, February 24th, 2010 at 09:06:18.

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