Patience pays off when it comes to polenta

January 16, 2000|By Annette Gooch | Annette Gooch,Universal Press Syndicate

Patient cooks make the best polenta. This coarse yellow or white Italian cornmeal takes lengthy cooking -- 30 minutes' worth at a minimum -- and frequent (better yet, continual) stirring. If the polenta is to be sliced for baking or grilling, it needs even longer cooking (another 20 minutes, until the texture is quite thick). Such patience deserves a delicious reward, and properly cooked polenta provides just that: a smooth, puddinglike consistency and a rich, mellow corn flavor, with no hint of bitter aftertaste.

Wine-poached sausages with peppers atop a mound of golden polenta make a satisfying choice for family dining or casual entertaining.

Sausages with Polenta and Peppers

Serves 4

SAUSAGES:

4 hot Italian pork

sausages

4 sweet Italian pork sausages, preferably flavored with fennel

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup olive oil

3 tablespoons minced garlic

3 cups coarsely chopped bell pepper, preferably a mixture of red and green

1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion

1/4 cup loosely packed fresh oregano leaves or 1 teaspoon finely ground dried oregano

Salt, to taste

POLENTA:

4 cups water

1 tablespoon salt

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup polenta

3/4 cup light cream

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Prick sausages all over with a fork and place in a lidded frying pan; no fat or liquid is needed. Brown over high heat on all sides. Turn down heat and add wine carefully (it will sputter). Cover pan, and poach sausages gently until done, about 10 minutes.

While sausages are cooking, heat olive oil in a separate skillet over moderate heat. Add garlic and saute until fragrant. Add peppers, onions and oregano and saute, stirring often, until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Add salt to taste.

In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over high heat, bring water, salt and 1 tablespoon butter to a boil. Add polenta, a little at a time, to the boiling water, slowly whisking all the while until mixture is smooth. Cook, stirring often with a wooden spoon, for 20 to 30 minutes; mixture will be thick. Add cream and cook, stirring often, until mixture is creamy, tastes fully cooked, and pulls away from the sides of the pan (10 to 15 minutes more). Stir in remaining butter and cheese.

To serve, divide Polenta among warm serving plates. Top with sauteed peppers and place one of each kind of sausage alongside.

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