Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Buona Pasqua Lunch and The Secret of No Stir Polenta!

Easter around our house is like the Tri-fecta of family holidays. Not only is there the big celebration of Easter, a huge deal in Italian households. But at Casa Gori, we also add in my parents anniversary and this year, my fathers' 91st birthday. Last year for his 90th, he got an iPod. Probably he was the oldest iPod owner out there at the time.
  My parents examine one of this years' anniversary presents, a deck of trivia cards based on events from the year they were married.
  My mother who is an insane practical joker brought over what she clams was my "first Easter  dress".
Seeing as it came on a tiny dolls' hanger, I have my doubts. My father however,  backs her up. But then again he always does. That's how they roll.

    Feeding my Italian family is no easy task. They are the pickiest of picky eaters and I have now taken on the mantle of "The One Who Feeds The Family At All Festivities". This is in part because we have the biggest dining room table and also it's my turn. Besides, my mother keeps telling everyone that she wishes she had a house without a kitchen. Just so we all know where she's coming from.
  Every holiday at our house we go back to my Tuscan roots and spread out all the family faves. This usually includes polenta, the delicious cornmeal concoction dear to the heart of every Northern Italian.
  There are two things I don't like about polenta. The standing and the stirring. The way I was taught to make it years ago involved standing and stirring for what seemed like forever with a big wooden spoon. This may have been great hanging around the kitchen back in Fiano but when there are a bunch of other dishes on the fire and no passel of sister-in-laws, cousins, et al to help, it can get old fast.
  I dreamed of the no stir polenta. Then I found it. All because of my Clay Coyote Pot.
Paula Wolfert turned me on to these clay pots and I have a large cazuela that makes perfect polenta every time. Only one quick stir is all that's needed. Pretty nifty.
  The other great thing about this recipe is that it cooks at the same temperature as the pork loin with herbs and whole grain mustard which was my main course. It can't get simpler than that.
The whole dish cooks up in about 1 hour, and will serve 6 to 8 people as a side dish.
     This is how it goes:
  Preheat the oven up to 350 degrees.
In a clay casserole of any oven proof baking dish mix:
1 quart of water
1 cup of finely ground polenta cornmeal
1 Tbs of salt
2 tbs of unsalted butter cut into little pieces
freshly ground pepper to taste
  Stir it all together and put it into the oven in the middle of  the top rack.

Then leave it to cook for 40 minutes. After 40 minutes take it out and stir it well, mix in anything you wish to put into the polenta, butter, cheese, you name it. My favorite is butter and a mix of grated parmesan and pecorino cheese.
  Mix in the fixings you choose, then pop it back in for another 10 minutes. After that, take it out to rest for about 10 minutes and serve.
This is my polenta in its Clay Coyote casserolle. My picky family loves this dish . I love this dish because it's so dang easy. I'm actually thinking of trying to make risotto in this same clay pot in the same way just to see what happens as I hate standing around stirring risotto.
My mother actually asked me for the recipe last year and now she makes it all the time. It's probably the first time in Gori family history that a recipe traveled in the opposite generational direction.

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