All The Rage

Seems though every time I turn around, you see chefs making polenta with this, polenta with that. Looks like I better get on the bandwagon. Here is a recipe for crispy polenta that I adore. The first part of this dish must be made in advance, 5 hours in advance that is. The polenta needs time to settle and harden before it can be removed and grilled. But this is one recipe well worth the wait. It is very easy to make, so don’t let anything stand in your way of enjoying this meatless Italian dish for a great lunch.

Crispy Polenta with Arrabbiata Sauce
6 cups water
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Arrabbiata Sauce, recipe below

Line the bottom of a 11 x 7-inch square baking pan(or equivalent) with tin foil and generously oil.  Heat 6 cups water in a large pot to boiling. Begin whisking water and add cornmeal in a very thin, steady stream. Vigorously whisk so as to prevent lumps. Reduce heat to low once all the cornmeal has been added and continue cooking  until very thick, stirring frequently. This step will take about 30 minutes, making sure that a spoon can stand up in it before spooning into the prepared pan.

Smooth out the top so it is level and let sit at room temperature 5 hours or overnight.
Turn the pan upside down onto a cutting board and slice polenta into 1 1/2-inch strips that are about 2-3 inches in length. Heat remaining  oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Reduce heat to medium and fry half the polenta slices until golden on all sides, about 4-5 minutes total, turning as needed. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese on all sides. To serve, spoon hot Arrabbiata sauce in the bottom of a serving plate and top with crispy polenta.

Arrabbiata Sauce
This isn’t your traditional Arrabbiata sauce. Classically it is made with chopped, seedless tomatoes and will not be as liquid, but that just won’t do here. I wanted a sauce that has the same kick as Arrabbiata, cut able to cling to my crispy polenta. This is the cure!

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small carrot, peeled, thinly sliced and diced
1/2 small onion, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon minced garlic in oil
1 jalapeno pepper, minced with seeds*
2(15-ounce) cans tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
Pepper to taste

Heat oil in saucepan over medium high heat. Sauté carrots in oil until crisp tender, about 3-4 minutes. Add onions, garlic and minced pepper. Continue cooking until onions are soft, another 2-3 minutes. Add tomato sauce, salt, sugar, oregano and basil. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes, stirring often. Season to taste with pepper.

*Cherry peppers or any chile pepper is fine with this recipe. Remember, the heat is what gives this dish its’ name.