Sunday, June 14, 2009

Menu 4: One Plate Meals

My sweetheart, Katherine, is a great fan of one-dish meals. Or rather one-plate meals. I could attribute her liking of these simple meals to the fact that she is the dishwasher in the household and hence her job is made considerably easier with the one plate dinner. Some pots and pans, of course, but not as many, and two plates which can be tucked into the dishwasher without much fuss. More importantly, though, I think that her spirit is nourished by a meal that is less complicated, by one dish with abundant flavor, such as the Bacon-Tomato-Corn Ragout that follows, on a bed of something soothing and comforting, in this case Creamy Polenta. It is straightforward and delicious. And that’s it.

Bacon-Tomato-Corn Ragout with Creamy Polenta

10 thick bacon slices, cut crosswise into ½-inch pieces
Note: Buy the best you can like Niman Ranch or a good local producer
2 tablespoons olive oil or bacon fat
2 medium onions, sliced
Pinch of red pepper flakes or smoky hot paprika
2 cups fresh corn kernels (about 3 ears) or frozen corn if you are desperate
7 Roma tomatoes, peeled if you want, seeded, cored and coarsely chopped
Note: I tried heirloom tomatoes. They were too juicy for this dish. If you want to use them, drain them really well before adding to the ragout.
½ cup chopped fresh basil
½ cup shredded basil for garnish
Fleur de sel or other large grain finishing salt
One recipe of Creamy Polenta (see recipe below)

1. In a medium skillet, cook the bacon pieces over low to medium-low heat, turning to achieve uniform crispness. Transfer to a paper towel to drain.
2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil or some bacon fat over medium heat. Add the onions and red pepper flakes or paprika, reduce the heat to medium-low and sauté until they are soft and amber, at least 20 minutes.
3. Add the corn, increase the heat to medium, and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and three-fourths of the bacon pieces and continue to cook, stirring frequently for 5 minutes. Add a little more bacon fat if you think the dish needs it for heightened flavor. Stir in the chopped basil.
4. Reheat the Creamy Polenta and make soft flat mounds in the middle of 4 warm plates. Spoon the ragout over the top. Sprinkle with the shredded basil, the remaining bacon pieces, and a sprinkling of fleur de sel or other salt.

4-5 Servings
Adapted from Sara Perry’s Everything Tastes Better with Bacon

Creamy Polenta

3 cups milk
Note: You can substitute other liquids if you desire.
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal

1. Combine the milk, butter, sugar, and salt in a heavy saucepan and heat to a simmer.
2. Slowly add the cornmeal, whisking constantly. Lower the heat and continue stirring with a wooden spoon until the mixture has thickened and leaves the sides of the pan, about 10 minutes.

Note: If you make this ahead, leave it in the saucepan or place in a microwavable bowl. You will need to add more milk or other liquid to loosen it up before serving. Warm it on low heat on the stove or in the microwave. Keep adding liquid and stirring until it is the consistency of mashed potatoes and nice and warm. You may need to add a bit more salt.

6 servings
Adapted from Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins’ The New Basics

1 comment:

Owen said...

I love that you are doing this - and look forward to trying some of these, the polenta dish looks fantastic!