Homebodies like Polenta, too!

If I had to describe myself in a few words, the ones that would ring most true would likely be: hungry, easy-going, homebody

The last one is something I never really thought I’d be. According to some, I’m not nearly old enough to have all my ‘party’ out of me. And it’s true. It’s not that I don’t enjoy a good time out, dancing, yelling as loud as I can just to be heard by the person 5 inches in front of me, spending $8 on a pint that would otherwise cost me $4, waking up feeling like there’s a team of city workers drilling into the core of my brain… I just really like being home. I like my couch. I like my dog. I like my pyjamas. I like home. A good night at home (mine or someone else’s) with close friends is my idea of ‘doing something’ on a Friday or Saturday night. Dinner, drinks, boardgames, sitting outside on the balcony sipping wine, watching my street change from family-oriented bliss to a bit of a circus after sunset… it’s my ideal way of winding down after a long week sitting at a desk.

I’m lucky that my best friend feels the same way. Balcony dinners have been our ‘thing’ for the past year and a bit (you know, since I moved into a place with a balcony). It’s where we meet to talk about everything we haven’t been able to, and likely things we’ve already talked way too much about. I don’t have to compete with music or drunk college kids or people pushing by me just to hear how her week went. I like that.

As the cooler weather blows into Ottawa and fall approaches, there are precious few nights left we can spend drinking wine and gabbing into the wee hours. We spent Friday out there, and while it wasn’t the warmest, it was sort of nice to bundle in sweaters and socks.

I’ve been wanting to give polenta a second go for some time and figured it seemed appropriate for a cool night. For those who don’t know what polenta is, it’s a fine or medium grain cornmeal (or sometimes Semolina) that’s cooked slowly with liquid until it becomes creamy and soft. I’m sure there is a better, more precise definition for it out there, but you get the jist, don’t you? You might know it better as “grits” which is what it’s called in many southern American states. It can be eaten as a smooth creamy dish or it can be cooled, cut into pieces and fried. I prefer the former method by a long shot. Its creamy, buttery, comforting  and can be served with a multitude of other toppings/ingredients. Some recipes I’ve seen call for a mixture of ingredients of many different textures and flavours to create a “Polenta Bar”. I love that idea. But I didn’t have many things on hand Friday evening, so I settled for something simple, and delicious.

You’ll have to forgive my lack of good photos for this post, I was too anxious to eat and was trying to socialize at the same time. I never claimed to be good at multitasking.

Creamy Polenta with Roasted Mushrooms, Scallions and Eggs

Creamy Polenta:
I followed Marcella Hazan’s recipe for no-stir polenta with a few minor changes. I highly recommend it if you want perfectly creamy polenta without having to fuss over it.

4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup polenta (not quick-cooking) or yellow cornmeal (5 ounces)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4-1/2 C fresh grated parmesan

Add polenta to water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to medium-high and whisk 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low and cover pan, then cook at a bare simmer, stirring with a long-handled spoon for 1 minute after every 10 minutes of cooking, 45 minutes total. Remove from heat and whisk in butter and parmesan until incorporated. Put lid on and keep warm until your vegetables are ready.

Roasted Mushrooms & Scallions

2 C mushrooms of your choice (I used baby portabella), cleaned and cut into one inch cubes
1 C scallions, cleaned/dried/cut into 1-ich pieces
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Preheat oven to 450

Add olive oil, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to a bowl and let sit for a few minutes while you clean, and prep vegetables.

Toss the chopped mushrooms and scallions with the oil.

Spread out on a baking sheet and roast until browned. About 10 minutes.

While the vegetables are roasting, poach/fry/bake/boil an egg however you like it best. I fried mine but poached would be REALLY good, too.

Put polenta in a bowl, top with your egg and roasted veggies.

Honest to goodness, it’s better than it looks. I only wish I could have captured it’s beauty better.

The polenta is creamy, the scallions are crunchy and add a nice bite to the otherwise rich meal, the mushrooms add some texture and the runny egg just melts into everything else. It’s comforting but doesn’t leave you wanting a nap. And it’s a good meal to share while catching up with your best friend over a bottle of Campofiorin.

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