Thursday, March 19, 2009

Taking Care of Business

I've decided that I simply can't let the lack of a photograph deter me from posting. I have plenty of recipes for things that really don't require a picture (or wouldn't be terribly photogenic).

Take, for instance, the polenta I made last week. Inspired by a meal I had on the business trip I took the previous week, I set out to recreate the polenta, which was by far the star of the meal.

My trip was to New York City, and one of the nights I was there we had dinner at my favorite restaurant in all of New York. L'Ecole is the restaurant run by the French Culinary Institute. The students run it--cooking, serving, etc--and the price is just so reasonable. A five course meal is $42. You can't even get a five course meal for $42 where I live, much less anywhere else in New York. And the food is amazing. I had sausage with lentils, scallops, a pork chop with the aforementioned incredible polenta, a salad, and dessert. Needless to say they had to roll me out the door.

When I got home, I decided my poor husband, who had been watching four children for three days (so that's actually twelve man days), deserved something yummy as a reward. I had asked what was in the polenta, and it seemed like the main thing that made it so wonderful was heavy cream. As my grandmother used to say, anyone can cook well with heavy cream. Indeed.

So I made polenta using half heavy cream, half chicken broth (I usually use all chicken broth; water just doesn't cut it in my book). While I was stirring, I cooked off some bacon in the oven to the point just prior to "burnt," so that it would be super-crispy. (As an aside, why do people bother making bacon on the stove in a frying pan? Have they just not thought of putting it in a rimmed baking sheet in the oven? Or are they quite fond of scrubbing at splattered bacon fat? Even when the recipe calls for sauteeing something in the residual bacon fat, I cook it off in the oven and spoon some of the fat into the heated skillet after the bacon is cooked. I can't understand why anyone would do it any other way, unless they derive a deep and lasting pleasure from cleaning the stove, which I suppose is possible.) Once the polenta was done, I scattered it with bits of crisp bacon.

Let me say right now you have never had anything so wonderful, so sublime, so lip-smackingly good, and at the same time so incredibly simple to make, as this polenta. The heavy cream and the bacon do all the work for you, you get all the credit.

Is this something you're going to make for dinner tonight? Well, possibly, if you're throwing a big blow-out to celebrate Poultry Day (March 19th!) and this is your side dish. However, I suggest filing this away for Christmas, or your birthday or anniversary, or maybe just the next time you're feeling too thin and emaciated.

The Best Polenta in the World
based on that made by L'Ecole, New York City
Makes about 6 servings

2 cups heavy cream
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup polenta (not instant)
4 strips of bacon, cooked crisp

Bring the cream and broth to a vigorous simmer (I never have the patience to actually let it come all the way to a boil, so I may as well admit that here in the instructions). Slowly pour the polenta into the liquid, stirring it round to combine. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring fairly frequently, until the polenta soaks up the liquid and takes on the incredible sumptuous texture that befits something cooked with two cups of heavy cream. This will take 15 or 20 minutes.

Serve polenta scattered with savory bits of crumbled bacon. If you make it ahead, and the polenta thickens on standing, you can thin it down with a bit of chicken broth prior to serving.


Cate said...

Sounds like a fantastic meal!

TD said...

It was! Fabulous food and such a bargain--check it out if you haven't's well worth a trip into the city!