Friday, June 11, 2010

Cooking from the Cupboard

Polenta, Sausage and Tomato Layers
This is one of those incredibly versatile dishes which is easy to prepare, immensely likable to just about every age group--especially teenage boys--with ingredients that can pretty much live in your cupboard or fridge. The better the ingredients you use in the dish, the better the result.

1 recipe Creamy Polenta (see recipe below)
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 Italian sausages, skin removed, coarsely chopped
Note: If your Italian sausages are not flavored with fennel seed, you can add ¼ teaspoon fennel seed to the sausage as you cook it
1½ cups home-made tomato sauce or a good one in a jar
12 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced ¼ to ½ inch thick
¼ teaspoon black pepper or Aleppo pepper

1. Make the polenta. See recipe below.
2. Preheat over to 375ºF. Butter a 2½-quart flameproof casserole.
3. Add ¼ cup Parmesan cheese to the hot polenta. Stir well. Pour into the prepared casserole. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of Parmesan.
4. While the polenta is cooking, sauté the sausage over medium heat, breaking up the pieces with a wooden spoon, until browned and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat.
5. Add the sausage to the casserole on top of the polenta, forming an even layer. Spoon on the tomato sauce, and sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan. Top with the mozzarella in an even layer. Sprinkle the mozzarella with black or Aleppo pepper (or both).
6. Bake until bubbling, about 30 minutes. If the top is not browned to your liking, place the casserole under the broiler until browned, watching it carefully. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

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

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
2 tablespoons butter, melted

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.
3. Taste for salt. Add more if necessary. Serve topped with melted butter.
If you are using this with Polenta, Sausage and Tomato Layers or as a bed for the Bacon-Tomato-Corn Ragout, you don’t need to add the butter at the end.

Note: If you make this ahead, you have two options: (1) Set it aside in the pan and reheat it on the stove adding more liquid to loosen it up to your liking. Or (2) Remove from the pan and place in a microwavable bowl, adding more milk or other liquid to loosen it up before serving. Warm it on low heat in the microwave. In both options, keep adding liquid and stirring and heating until it is the consistency of mashed potatoes. Check for salt.

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

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