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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

White Wine Polenta

Polenta is good.  I mean... I like it... I suppose.  I'm not, however, one of those vehement proponents, who'll extol its many uses and variations and just sheer greatness.

It's just cooked corn meal people.

Now, that said, it can be a delightful switch from your everyday side or otherwise starchy medium.  

Well, today it just so happened that I had some white wine I needed to use up... my Mom was here over the holidays and is literally the only reason we even keep white wine on hand.  So, when she left half a bottle of Pinot Grigio behind... I had to get creative with how to use it up.

It also happened that I was craving some eggs, but didn't have any bread products.  So... that's how this particular meal was born.  

Every one of my meals has a long and storied history, after all.

Well, making polenta is actually pretty easy.  Incorporating white wine into it, a little less so.  But still quite simple, really.

Corn meal is needed, obvs.

I like to sift through the meal and look for discoloured bits.  They occur naturally (from the corn kernal) but polenta needs all the aesthetic help it can get in my opinion, so it's not hard to just take a minute and fish those bits out.

Next I brought a water and wine mixture to a low boil, and then added some salt (truffle salt) and some fresh chives.

At this point, I took out some of this liquid, let it cool for a few minutes, and then added that to the corn meal.

If you just dump all the corn meal in there dry, it can clump and then not cook evenly.  And polenta is ALL about evenness.  In fact, I would argue that is its most important concern...

Anyway, at this point it's just a matter of patience.

It is easy, but time consuming, and you'll need to stand at the stove and stir frequently.

For the first 10 or 20 minutes I like to use a whisk.

But as soon as it thickens to the point of being problematic for the whisk, switch to a wooden spoon.

At this point, it is almost done cooking in the pan, so I got a baking pan ready by greasing it heavily in butter.

Of course, any oil would do here, but I already had some butter softening on the counter (for other things), so why not?

Well, the polenta is done cooking when it's thickened to the point of a spoon sticking straight up.

Or thereabouts, anyway.

Now... you can serve this as it is, and often this is sufficient.  Especially if you're serving it up on it's own as a dish in and of itself.

However, I wanted to make polenta squares.  For no particularly good reason other than that I wanted them to retain their square shape under the pressure of further contents lain upon them.  You'll see later.

I also wanted them to be a little more flavourful than usual.  So I put in some parmigiano reggiano, some more chives, and some white peppercorns.

Not all of this, mind you, the butter and some of the chives and pepper are saved for a white wine egg sauce I'm going to make later.

But the cheese and some of the spices get mixed into the polenta while it's still malleable.  Then the whole thing gets poured into the baking pan.

Smooth it out as best you can, but it's not crucial it be pretty at this point.  Stick it in the fridge to cool for at least an hour, and when it's done it sets nicely, and forms one gross clammy brick.

Gross and clammy maybe, but it is very easy to work with.  Especially if you want to cut it into squares.  :)

I put most of these in some plastic containers to store in the fridge, but I plated a few of them, to be ready for what came next.

That butter I had been softening is ready to melt, and have some white pepper and egg yolks added.

Add the remaining white wine, heat it up gently, and you've got a delicious white wine hollandaise-esque kind of sauce.


I decided to sauté some green beans as a side dish, so got those goin'.

As everything became ready, they each got plated.

Some fresh mixed greens will go very well with this dish, look great next to the heavier fare, and also serve as a light go-to when feeling overwhelmed by the rich egg-y stuff.

That's a piece of prosciutto di parma and some parmigiano reggiano on top of the polenta, BTW.  Cause why not?

Last thing to do is to poach up a couple of eggs.

Don't want these bad boys to cool, so we want them to go on the plate pretty much right before eating.

Free poaching eggs is my favourite way of making eggs, and if you've followed my writings before, you'll know that.  As such, I've gotten quite good at it, if I do say so myself.  I've written dedicated posts on this, but a quick refresher: bring some lightly salted water to a rolling boil.  Add a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice (not vinegar!), lower heat until it is now a moderate-to-gentle boil.  Get your eggs ready.  Get a slotted spoon ready.  Give the pot a rather vigourous stir in one direction.  The object of this is to create a strong circular current.  Crack an egg and gently plop it directly in the middle of this current.  You'll see that this current will 'sweep' the albumin nicely around the yolk.  Without that the egg can be all over the place.

 You can see the egg being 'shaped' by the water current.  It's pretty neat.

Anyway, for a medium poach, an egg only needs a minute or two in there.  So, with your slotted spoon, gently pull the egg out, hold it above the pan for a few seconds to drain excess water, and then plate that gorgeous sucker.

I garnished with some more chives, and then, some of that white wine sauce.

I'm not going to call that a hollandaise, because the white wine kind of messed up the consistency a little bit.  I probably could have 'fixed' it by adding another yolk, but at this point I was hungry, and I didn't care if my white wine egg sauce was starting to separate a little bit.

It still looked pretty good I think.

It tasted even better, though.