Loads of people came to the cupcake party and everybody decorated cupcakes, and we only had one chair for every two people, but kids don’t sit for long, so the kids sat and then the moms sat, we had snacks, we went outside, we came back inside, we had a movie, we colored on paper, covered the cement bit of the backyard with chalk, made some pasta, didn’t eat it, and then everyone went home.
It’s good to have a cupcake party everyonce in a while, to throw caution to the wind be happy for no good reason and every reason.
The day after menu:
Sausage and mushroom ragu over polenta with a salad of romaine, black olives, red peppers, tiny diced zucchini, red onion, fresh herbs, olive oil and lemon.
For the ragu, dice a small spanish onion and saute in your best olive oil with two cloves of garlic and a few sprigs of fresh oregano or rosemary and sage. When the onion is completely soft (15 minutes), add the crumbled sausage, removed from its casing. Cook through completely and set aside in a flat bowl. Wipe out the pan, drizzle in a bit more olive oil, and 8 ounces of sliced mushrooms. Don’t move them around the pan. When they have browned on the bottom, sprinkle with salt, toss around a little, and add the sausage mixture. Add one 28 ounce can of whole tomatoes that you have crushed with your hands. Cook for half an hour. Taste for salt.
Meanwhile, use 3 parts water to one part polenta. Bring the water with salt to the boil, and slowly drizzle in the polenta in a steady stream, whisking as you go. Turn the heat down to a minimum and switch to a wooden spoon. Add a little hot water if the mixture looks to thick. It should be the texture of mayonnaise. Stir gently for five or forty minutes, depending on what kind of polenta you have bought. (read the package) The forty minute stuff is fantastic, but not everybody has that kind of time. Never buy polenta in a log shape. It’s not nice, and could be why you don’t like polenta, if you don’t like polenta. When the cooking time is done, turn off the heat. Stir in a few tablespoons of butter and a half cup of parmesan cheese (to one cup of uncooked polenta, serving four people.)
Spoon the polenta onto plates and the ragu over that. Shred on slivers of Parmigiano Reggiano with your vegetable peeler.
For the salad, chop the zucchini, red pepper and onion all into a small dice. Toss with olive oil and lemon and season with salt and pepper. Add some chopped parsley. Let this sit for a minute. When you are ready to serve, toss it with the romaine, adding more olive oil and lemon and salt to taste.
Do you know of the recipes for baked polenta? I’ve made the soft polenta and while it’s “baking” you can do something else for the 40 minutes rather than standing at the stove and stirring.
Great post (as usual!)
I love baked polenta. You can do it a few ways: make polenta as you normally would, spread into a sheet pan or lasagna pan, and when you are ready to eat, heat it up, covering it tightly with foil, or make what’s called Roman Gnocchi, which is actually made with semolina flour instead of the cornmeal and you add egg yolks, parmesan, and butter at the end, spread it into a sheet pan, cool, cut into small circles with a metal ring, and then layer them in a buttered dish, sprinkle with more parmesan (or romano) and when you are ready, bake them off. This is so good with braised top round made with a soffritto of carrot, celery, onion and garlic and then a good pour of your favorite red wine.
I probably described it in a confusing manner but it’s raw polenta that you cook in the oven as opposed to stirring it on the stove constantly. You combine the cornmeal, water (amount depends on the consistency that you would like), olive oil, and salt in a non-stick pan in about a 350 degree oven (don’t remember the exact temperature). I like the texture/results better when it’s cooked in the oven and it is certainly a lot easier.
I do like baked polenta dishes as well! I was at this mansion/museum last night for a dinner and they took us in the kitchen and pointed out the old cookbooks, one of which was open to a recipe for Gnocchi alla Romana.