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.


  1. What a great way to cook polenta. I do not make it often, by I own a clay pot and will have to try this!

  2. Haha! So, Kathy, I guess you've been a fashionista practically all your life then? Mum has great taste in summer wear ;)

    This sounds intriguing - no stir polenta??! Before I do try it, I just want to make sure that this recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of salt?

  3. Oh your parents are adorable, so cute! I cannot believe your dad has an ipod! my parents don't even know how to use their answering machine and they're only in their 60s!!! but then I think in Europe people of that generation tend to be technology challenged, at least my parents are. Great polenta! and yes, the stirring can kill you! so yours seems like a winner polenta!

  4. Man Kathy, what a great post! I can't even imagine my dad, who is 81, using an Ipod. He once changed his answering machine to Spanish and no one could change it back. To this day we don't know how he did it. Could you imagine him with an Ipod? That polenta sounds like the recipe for me. I am so impatient when it comes to that stuff and probably why I don't make rissoto either!

  5. I had never made polenta till we filmed a lesson on it. Then I had it way to much in one day for anyone's taste but I know how to make it with great certainty. Now if I could just get my kids to give it a shot now.....

  6. I'd love to hear how the no-stir risotto turns out...is it possible? I'll wait for you to do the experiment!

  7. I make non-stir risotto- half of Italy doesn't stir!!! comes out so much lighter!!!

  8. Screw the lightness. I love the dense heaviness of risotto! Although now you have peaked my interest and I want to start a no-stir revolution.

    Great recipe Kathy!

  9. Perfect for a lazy girl like me! Can't wait to try it!

  10. wow- no stir? really? that is so cool! i find i'm in your camp w polenta- i rarely make it b/c of the stirring, so I'm going to get after this! your parents sound so vivacious and wonderful, btw!

  11. Love the technique. And so happy foodbuzz is back in business -- love getting your emails!

  12. Hi Kathy, I loved this post. Just so rich to be Italian! You have family running through your veins and that makes a party so heartwarming. This could be an important easy way to make polenta for a big crowd. We will give this a try. best, s

  13. That is clever! Will have to try it out the next time I make polenta

  14. That polenta sounds incredible and I love the reverse generational flow.

  15. I have to admit that I've never made polenta but with that awesome pot I bet it's a lot easier than I thought it would be :D

  16. @denise, my mother has been a practical joker all her life I am so suspicious about this so called "baby dress". She just wants to make me blog about it and then she'll tell me she was faking me out.

  17. @bunkycooks,
    the guys at clay coyote make great cookware, and it really makes this recipe fun to make and present. I love stuff that can go from the oven to the table and still look good.

  18. @Rochelle, yes, this way is sooo much easier.

  19. @oysterculture,
    in my family since I'm the only one that cooks,or likes to cook, it can only go in one direction!

  20. @redkathy,
    he may have gotten an iPod but he still calls his DVD player a VCR. My mother on the other hand is quite the webmonkey after being online 3 days she'd already found the Vegas gambling sites.

  21. I love polenta - but never stir mine as much as they say you should and still get good results. I can't wait to try this baked polenta! My favorite way to eat it is with butter and Parmesan too. Your parents are adorable!



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