Thursday, August 30, 2012

Futzing With Recipes And Thoughts On Polenta

Do you do this? Do you find a recipe that you’re interested in and then look at a million other similar recipes (okay, 5 or 6) and take what you like from each one? I almost never DON'T do that. Especially if it’s something unfamiliar, I like to see how other folks approach that particular ingredient or dish.

I saw this recipe on Food52 for polenta MADE WITH FRESH CORN. It really caught my attention. FRESH CORN TO MAKE POLENTA?!! Wow! I had NEVER thought of that. I was gobsmacked at such an intriguing, yet obvious, idea. Of course, you should be able to make polenta from fresh corn. And, of course, it would have a fresher, sweeter flavor. AND it would probably have a completely different texture too. So interesting.  

I looked at Yotam Ottolenghi's recipe very carefully. Basically, you boil the corn in lots of water, drain it, process it and cook it until thick. I didn’t get why you would use so much water in the first place just to drain it off. He does say you can use some of the cooking water if the mixture gets dry, but then why use that much initially? The comments bore out my misgivings. There were problems with the proportions and there was a lot of fiddling around going on, which is fine, but not if it's to correct a major flaw in the recipe.

Then I found Chez Elaine’s recipe. I wish I knew who she was, because she has dynamite recipes on her blog and absolutely no information about herself. I sort of followed her recipe (except for the quantities and a few tweaks on the cooking method). The result was a super-sweet purée of cooked corn, (but in a good “corny” way) with a fresh-from-the-fields-sort-of-taste. And it definitely resembled polenta, but with a coarser texture and again, it was MUCH sweeter.

Also Elaine (I’m assuming it’s not a nom de plume) uses fresh ricotta, instead of the feta which Ottolenghi used. I was going to cut that in half to TWO tablespoons, but it was SO good, I just added it all in. I would definitely try the feta next time. Its salty tang might be a great counterpoint to the sweetness of the purée.

Yotam Ottolenghi topped his polenta with sautéed eggplant. I liked that idea, but I put together a different recipe that cooked for much longer than his and had a lot less oil. Also his eggplant had sugar in it, which is SO unnecessary, considering the sweetness of the polenta.

So here is my mixed and matched (and changed around) recipe for Fresh Corn Polenta With Sautéed Eggplant.

Oh, two more things about the eggplant…(Aren’t there always?) Usually I peel my eggplant, but I was using really pretty little speckled eggplant, so I peeled off only some of the skin, leaving stripes. (I’m not the only one to do this.) 


Also after I sautéed the eggplant, I steamed it a bit by cooking it with the lid on. It allowed the eggplant to get soft without having to add more oil, which is always a good thing.

Fresh Corn Polenta With Sautéed Eggplant (serves 4)

Printable recipe here.
adapted from Chez Elaine’s Fresh Corn Polenta with Ricotta


6 ears fresh corn to make 5 to 6 cups
1 tbl. extra virgin olive oil
1 tbl. unsalted butter
1½ cups chopped onions
¼ tsp. Kosher salt
1 clove garlic, peeled with center stalk removed and pressed through a garlic press or finely chopped
1 cup milk and cream (I put 2 tbls. cream in the bottom of a cup measure and filled it up to one cup with 1% milk)
2 sprigs of rosemary
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
¼ cup of fresh ricotta 
To serve: Top with Sautéed Eggplant with Tomatoes (recipe follows)

Peel and de-silk the corn. (Careful. Some garbage disposals don’t like corn silk.) Hold the ears over a bundt pan and cut the kernels away from the cob. 

That is not my thumb, by the way.
A sharp serrated paring knife is just the thing for getting as much of the corn off as possible. (I switched from the chef's knife and it worked much better.) You should have in the neighborhood of 5 to 6 cups. Set aside.

Heat olive oil and butter in a large sauté pan until foaming. Stir in onion and ¼ teaspoon of Kosher salt, cover, and turn heat down to low. Cook until onion completely soft, at least 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  

Turn heat to medium, stir in garlic and cook for 2 minutes. (Don’t stop stirring.) Add corn and sauté for about 4 minutes. Stir in milk and cream mixture. Bring to a boil, turn down heat to medium low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. 

Remove from heat and pour into food processor. Process for 2 minutes until smooth, stopping the processor every 30 seconds. 

Pour back into sauté pan and add rosemary sprigs. Cook for another 15 minutes until thick. Remove rosemary and stir in fresh ricotta. Taste for seasoning. Serve topped with Sautéed Eggplant with Tomatoes. 

Puréeing note: You can cook the corn with the milk and cream for the full 25 minutes and THEN purée it. You’ll have a smoother mixture that way. If it’s not thick enough, just put it back over the heat for few minutes. Elaine doesn’t purée hers at all. She likes the coarser texture, but I wanted mine to resemble polenta. 

Sautéed Eggplant with Tomatoes

1 tbl. olive oil 
1½ cups chopped onions 
2 cloves garlic, peeled with center stalk removed and pressed through a garlic press or finely chopped 
3 small speckled eggplant (any other variety), partially peeled in stripes and cut into ½” dice to make 5 or 6 cups
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes OR 2 cups fresh tomatoes, diced 
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper  

Heat olive oil in medium saucepan. Stir in onions, bring up to a sizzle, cover and cook over low heat until completely soft, at least 10 minutes. Turn heat up to medium, add garlic and cook for 2 minutes, stirring all the time. 
Add eggplant and cook, stirring well, for 2 minutes. Cover and turn heat down to medium/medium low and let eggplant steam for 5 minutes, stirring once. 

Turn down to medium low and cook, covered, for another 5 minutes or until eggplant is soft. (If it’s sticking, turn down heat to low.) 

Add tomatoes, bring to a simmer and cook, covered, for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.


A note about “conventional” polenta:
I love it. I find it fun to make, although I do the exact opposite of most recipes. Usually you’re told to stir the cornmeal into the boiling water or liquid. I NEVER do it. To me, it’s a recipe for disaster and lumpy polenta.

I use Rozanne Gold’s method from Recipes 1-2-3. Measure the polenta (1½ cups) into a large saucepan and gradually stir in 5 cups of water. Then bring it to the boil and simmer, stirring constantly, for ten minutes. Stir in about a 1/3 cup of freshly grated Parmesan at the end and a clove of pressed garlic added at the beginning doesn’t hurt.


Anonymous said...

Hi Sue,

This looks awesome -- I would never have thought of sweet corn polenta but I'll have to try it. (I also have to admit I have a little bit of a crush on Yotam Ottolenghi so I'm disappointed his recipe didn't work as well as it should...) Thanks for the shout-out on the eggplant!

Sue said...

Hi Tom,
Just as I was uploading the eggplant pictures (or trying to - Blogger on Chrome was a mess today), I read your eggplant recipe and it was SO funny that I did the same thing as you.

Yotam Ottolenghi is a cool guy, but his recipe did not seem like it would have worked and I didn't want to waste all that effort just to have it fail.

Sheila said...

The pictures look great! YUMMY!

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Wouldn't have thought of that in a million years. I have yet to eat any fresh corn this summer. I just don't get to the farmer's market on the days I'd be cooking it and if you're not cooking it on the day, what's the point? Perhaps if I made polenta out of it, I wouldn't feel it mattered so much. Hmmmmm...brain gears are a-turning.

I always look for a dozen other recipes and take what I need from each one. I usually try to make techniques be across the board, but I'm always switching up ingredients.

Sue said...

Thanks, Sheila. I appreciate it! When you have time (in about 5 years...if you're lucky) try this and let me know what you think.

Hey Rach,
I know! Isn't using FRESH corn an interesting take on polenta? I have to admit I don't always use corn on the day I buy it, but it's still fine. And this would be a good way to use it up. (My supermarket has had lots of fresh local corn, but we're in one of the few states without a horrible drought.)

I guess the fun of cooking is getting ideas from different places and putting them together however you think is best. Happy cooking!

Emily said...

Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh this looks amazing! I love polenta and eggplant.

Sue said...

Thanks Em!