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Posts Tagged ‘polenta’

Chef Lesourd's Saddle of RabbitHaving watched a bazillion cooking shows where professionals and amateurs submerge lamb, beef and veggie wrapped in plastic into precise temperature  water baths and reading the praise doused on “sous vide” by culinary icons Heston Blumenthal and Thomas Keller, I was really was excited at the prospect of seeing the technique and tasting the results.

“The classic sous vide process involves two steps: Step One is sealing the food in air-tight bags, typically through the use of a vacuum pump/sealer. The term, “sous vide,” or “under vacuum,” though applied to the entire process, arose from just the vacuum-pump method of accomplishing just this first step. Step Two is the actual cooking of the food at low temperature for a prolonged time.”  From Wikipedia

Meat, vegetables and even fruit are cooked at regulated end result temperatures.  That means a rack of lamb would be sealed and cooked in a water bath regulated to 60 C if you wanted a medium rare result.  It will take much longer to cook as in conventional cooking you cook at a high temperature, say 180C, so the process goes a lot faster.  The benefit of sous vide is that you can never over cook the lamb if the water is never above 60C – that is the maximum temperature the lamb can reach.  This way the juices stay in the lamb and it is perfect every time – very important for a restaurant.

The sous vide water bath had been used in a prior demonstration and unfortunately not recovered from a mishap where the electric temperature regulator fell unceremoniously into the water bath.  Chef had to abandon the use of it during this demo and had sent it for repair.   It had not returned and this meant our rabbit was destined to be cooked the old fashioned way, seared and roasted.   Trés disappointing!  As the roast rabbit is hardly exciting let’s talk about polenta.

Polenta with Black and Green Olives catches your imagination with the promise of sweet creamy corn meal, tangy parmesan and salty green and black olives.  It reminds me of an awesome lunch I had in Italy with my family after a wine tasting at Pieropan in the region of Soave.  The restaurant is literally across the street from the winery if you go and as we had no plan for lunch we sauntered in and took a shady seat on the terrace.

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This makes an excellent side dish with grilled meats or roasted vegetables.  It can be served creamy like a mashed potato or chilled, cut in to shapes and pan fried until crisp on the outside.  I’ve posted a similar base polenta recipe in July of 2011.

500 ml chicken stock

1.5 tsp minced garlic

salt

150 g polenta (finest texture)

3/4 cup cream

4 tbsp butter

20 g parmesan cheese

10 black kalamalta olives, pitted and diced

10 green olives, pitted and diced

Freshly ground pepper

1 tsp olive oil

3 table spoons canola oil (for crispy polenta)

Method:

Combine the stock garlic and a sprinkling of sale in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.  Pour the polenta in a stream into the stock and cook over low heat stirring often for 17 to 20 minutes.  The polenta must be quite dry and should coat the bottom of the pan.  The moisture must evaporate because it will be replaced by the cream/butter.  Otherwise the texture will be gummy.

Meanwhile warm the cream in a small saucepan.

When the polenta is dried, stir in the butter.  Add the cream gradually and incorporate into the polenta before adding more.  Season with parmesan, olives, salt and pepper.

For creamy polenta:  Pour into a bowl and drizzle with olive oil.

For crispy polenta:  Pour the polenta into a casserole in a 2 to 3 cm thick layer.  Cover with a plastic wrap pressed directly to the against the polenta and refrigerate for several hours until set.

Cut the polenta into square, triangles or use a form to to cut circles.    Heat the canola oil in a saute pan over medium heat.  Add the polenta and cook turning once until rick golden brown and crispy on both sides, about 12 minutes.  Arrange on plates for serving.

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When C and I travel alone, I feel much too guilty to go running off for the day to indulge in a cooking lesson.   However, having a girlfriend along on vacation provides an excellent excuse!   On our recent trip to Provence with Rod, Sharron and Jada, I managed to find a one day class near Aix en Provence  run out of a hotel restaurant, Le Mas du Luberon.   We had spent two glorious nights celebrating Sharron’s birthday at Crillon le Brave surrounded by a beautiful view, sunny skies, wine and glorious meals.  Our next adventure would be a cooking class with an honest to goodness French chef!  Our class was to start at 9 am so we planned our departure for 8 am and shockingly I totally underestimated the drive.  What was in my mind a 45 minutes drive was truly an 1.5 hour drive!   Enroute we called ahead to advise of our dilemma and they thankfully said they would wait for us.  Gentile!

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A simple but decilious romantic meal.   Serves 2 – if serving more double or triple the recipe.  A few hints to start:

  1. Prepare the polenta 1 hour before you cook the lamb and cool in the refrigerator.
  2. Before begin the lamb, begin frying the polenta on med-low heat; brown on each side.
  3. Place the beef or veal stock on med heat in a pan to reduce.  You want to reduce the stock to concentrate the flavors but watch that you don’t lose too much to evaporation – you will need a minimum of 2/3 cup for this recipe.
  4. Create the crust before you sear the lamb.

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Polenta

You can serve this polenta two ways, creamy or fried.

500 ml chicken stock

1.5 tsp minced garlic

salt

150 g polenta (finest texture)

3/4 cup cream

4 tbsp butter

Optional (15 g emmental cheese)

Freshly ground pepper

canola oil (for crispy polenta)

Method:

Combine the stock garlic and a sprinkling of sale in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.  Pour the polenta in a stream into the stock and cook over low heat stirring often for 17 to 20 minutes.  The polenta must be quite dry and should coat the bottom of the pan.  The moisture must evaporate because it will be replaced by the cream/butter.  Otherwise the texture will be gummy.

Meanwhile warm the cream in a small saucepan.

When the polenta is dried, stir in the butter.  Add the cream gradually and incorporate into the polenta before adding more.  Season with salt and pepper.

For creamy polenta:  Pour into a bowl and drizzle with olive oil.

For crispy polenta:  Pour the polenta into a casserole in a 2 to 3 cm thick layer.  Cover with a plastic wrap pressed directly to the against the polenta and refrigerate for several hours until set.

Cut the polenta into square or use a form to to cut circles.    Heat the canola oil in a saute pan over medium heat.  Add the polenta and cook turning once until rick golden brown and crispy on both sides, about 12 minutes.  Arrange on plates for serving.

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