Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Polenta with a Creamy Marsala sauce - and it's vegetarian!!

Today's recipe?  Polenta with a creamy marsala sauce - and it's vegetarian!!

Well, until this week I didn't really even know what polenta was.  I had heard of it but that's about it.

We were watching, "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" on Monday night and they were making polenta.  Since I had never tried it I was very curious.  That's when I noticed that my wife was drooling and I decided I needed to try it whether it was something I liked or not (I live by the philosophy that having a happy wife makes my life MUCH better).

First, for those (like me) that aren't familiar with polenta, it's basically a form of ground corn (the term polenta can mean the ground meal itself or the actual cooked food) mixed with water or stock and made into a porridge that can be eaten directly, or baked, fried or grilled.  In my mind at least, it's not that different than an Italian version of grits which explains why my wife was drooling - she loves grits.

This is the recipe I came up with.  Like most of the things I make, it's an amalgam of what I find when I look up recipes, what I have on hand (or am able to find in the store) and what my own sense of taste tells me I'll like.  There are two parts to it:  the polenta itself and the sauce.

For the Polenta:

8 cups water
1 tablespoon coarse salt
2 1/2 cups polenta (cornmeal)
1 stick butter
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup grated Parmesan-Romano
1 tsp rosemary powder (optional)
1 quart peanut oil, for frying (or whatever oil you prefer)

Bring the water and salt to a boil in a large heavy stockpot. 
Remove the pot from heat and slowly add the polenta so that it doesn't get lumpy, beating constantly.
Continue to add the polenta slowly, until it's all incorporated. 
Return the pot to the stove and bring to low simmer. 
Continue cooking for about 40 minutes, stirring constantly. 
Polenta will be done when it cleanly pulls away from the sides of the pot (this is the first time I've made this - and it did NOT pull away from the side of the pot.  It did however get so thick that my wrist got an incredible workout). 
Stir in the butter, heavy cream, cheese and rosemary if you're using it. 
Once combined, carefully pour the polenta onto a large sheet pan (12 by 18-inch). Spread it out evenly and let it cool completely until firm to the touch, about 1 1/2 hours (you can make this the day before and just keep it in the refrigerator)

For the sauce:

1/4 stick butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 tablespoon chopped fresh garlic
1 cup small diced portobello mushrooms
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup dry Marsala wine
4 cups heavy cream

In a large saute pan over high heat, add the butter, olive oil, onion, chopped garlic, mushrooms, and salt and pepper, to taste. 
Stirring occasionally, let it cook until the water from the mushrooms has been released and evaporated and the onions have turned translucent (about five minutes).  
Add the Marsala wine and stir until the wine is incorporated.  
Add the cream, reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking until the cream is reduced by half and has a thick consistency. 
Remove from the heat and keep covered. Set aside.

Heat the peanut oil over high heat in a large deep pot or a deep-fryer. 
Meanwhile, slice the cooled polenta into desired size and shape. 
Once the oil has reached frying temperature, add the polenta, in batches, and deep-fry until golden brown.

Arrange the polenta on serving plates and spoon the desired amount of sauce over the top.   

Trust me, the polenta is best when it's still hot - the crunch on the outside and creaminess inside is incredible!

For the record, I loved it as did my wife, the 16 year old and our dinner guest.  It's going to become a regular at our house!

Please leave any comments to let me know what you think.

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