#CookForJulia Polenta Family-Style

So, you may not have noticed, because I’ve been quiet about it, but I have been cooking a lot this past week. This has created a refrigerator full of leftovers, and something needs to be done about that. In her book, The Way To Cook, Julia has a term for this: Feasting on the Remains. She is usually referring to larger cuts of meat, such as hams and roasts, and has lots of suggestions for what can be creatively assembled from what is left over. But I am extending the meaning of that phrase to include the Remains of all the dishes I have cooked in honor of Julia this week. But I didn’t want to cheap out on you and not cook something tonight, so I went on the hunt for a side dish that would make a fine accompaniment to any leftover morsel currently in the fridge.

Refrigerator, meet Polenta.

Polenta is such a wonderful base for anything creamy, saucy, spicy, well, almost anything at all. I often just cook it up in boiling water until it is thickened, and the grains have softened, and just serve it up in small mounds on each person’s plate. Julia’s Polenta Family-Style takes it one or two steps further, so I decided to take those steps. Besides, I was completely consumed with the idea of dumping an entire pot of polenta out onto a flat surface and covering it with butter and cheese. Talk about playing with your food.

Julia’s method of cooking polenta was totally new to me, too. Instead of stirring the polenta into boiling water, her recipe says to whisk cold water into dry polenta in a large saucepan, bring to a simmer, cook for 5 min. stirring frequently, and then put the whole darn pot into another pot with an inch of simmering water in it. Covered, it cooks for 45 minutes, and you stir it a few times during that time. The polenta came out much more creamy-textured, less grainy, and not a bit of it stuck to the bottom of the pan (bonus!).

I topped the polenta slab with butter, and half of it with grated parmesan, so The Boy could be as picky as his heart desired concerning the cheese, which he knows he likes, but must periodically shun, presumably to keep me guessing.

He made himself a meatball sub from some other leftovers from this week, and didn’t even have polenta.

His strategy seems to be working.

I placed a good-sized slice of polenta on my plate, and topped it with (in this order): cheese sauce from the Seafood Crepes, Ratatouille, crabmeat that didn’t make it into the crepes, and a dollop of pesto.

Yum. Never mind The Boy; more polenta for me. There is leftover Coq au Vin, and Boeuf Bourguignon, in the fridge, and I know they will be fabulous over polenta.

Julia died 8 years ago today, 2 days from her 92nd birthday. I’d like to think I can keep her spirit and her memory alive, just a little bit, in my own way, in my own kitchen, and that she would have enjoyed Feasting on the Remains in my fridge. Over polenta. And a glass of wine.

Cheers, Julia.

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5 comments

  1. Great blog about the remains! Sounds so much more appealing than “leftovers”. I’ve never done much with polenta. I have to confess, I just don’t “get” it, and I really try to be open-minded about food. Maybe after your blog I’ll give it another try. Thanks for more inspiration!!

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    • Polenta is serious comfort food, in a golden, carbohydratey kind of way. It’s one of my favorite “blank slates”-so many meat and vegetable combos will work with it, and it’s perfect with just cheese too.

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