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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Polenta with a Mexican Twist





I've been participating in the most recent of Food Network's endeavor's @healthyeats to promote a healthier lifestyle one week at a time.  Last week was eating breakfast every day for a week which I'm happy to say I do almost every day, every week.  This week was eating more whole grains...so I thought I would share this version of polenta as part of @healthyeats as a different way to enjoy healthy whole grains.  Enjoy!

At a recent trip to my local grocery store I was looking for tomatillo salsa for a recipe that my family really likes, but couldn't find any.  Instead what I did find was something called racaito, a combination of garlic, cilantro, olive oil.  I wasn't sure if I could substitute it for the salsa but thought I'd try it.  It didn't work.  But I was reading the jar and thought it might be good in a starch, and one of our favorite starches is polenta.



I decided to make a cooking liquid flavored with onion and garlic and then add the racaito.  I simmered the liquid before cooking the cornmeal in it.  The result was a creamy and very flavorful polenta with a Mexican twist.  To finish it off I added a tablespoon of butter and some grated cheddar cheese.  Delicious!

The first time I made it I was home alone for dinner and had some leftover pork loin.  I put the polenta in the bottom of the bowl, added the pork loin on top.


The next time I browned some chipotle chicken sausages and then added them to the polenta. It was spicy but so good.

When I had left over polenta I refrigerated it, then cut it into pieces and fried it.


Making Mexican polenta is easy and trust me, very flavorful.

Here's how:
In a large pot like a dutch oven add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Once the oil is hot, add 1 small onion chopped.  Saute the onion until transluscent but not browned.  Grate or finely mince 2 large garlic cloves more or less depending on your preference into the pot with the onion.  Cook until fragrant.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add 2 heaping tablespoons of Racaito to the pot and stir to combine.  Cook until fragrant stirring to make sure the herbs and garlic don't burn.  Add 4 cups of chicken broth or stock and bring to a mild boil. Turn the heat down and simmer the liquid for 10-15 minutes so that the liquid can absorb the flavors. Bring the liquid back to a mild boil.  Once the liquid is boiling add 1 cup of cornmeal and whisk continuously until the polenta becomes thick.  Turn the heat down to low and continue to stir occasionally so that lumps don't form and the flavor can penetrate the cornmeal.  Cook, stirring occasionally for at least 15-20 minutes or until the cornmeal is cooked and the polenta is smooth.  You can do this on top of the stove or in the oven set at 350 degrees.  Once the polenta is cooked add 1 tablespoon of butter and as much grated cheddar cheese as you like, and we like a lot.  I would say at least 1/2 cup.
That's it!  Serve it however you like.  It's delicious by itself or with Mexican style sausages or chicken.  I would even grill a steak with Mexican seasonings and serve the polenta on the side.  It's very versatile.

If you have any leftover (which you may or may not, it's really that good!) you can refrigerate it and then the next morning spread it out on a cookie sheet....





Cut it into squares.....


And pan fry it.....



Would make a delicious breakfast with some crispy bacon or fried ham.

When I bought the Racaito the last time I saw that they also had Sofrito.  I guess it's time to experiment with this to see what amazing dish I can come up with using that. 

Have a secret ingredient you can't live without?
Have you used Racaito or Sofrito and have an amazing recipe you'd like to share?




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