Sunday, March 14, 2010

sausage and polenta/ginger fried rice

I'm going to start off this entry with a totally superfluous plug for Mark Bittman, who many of you are probably familiar with if you have even a passing interest in food and cooking. If you don't know Bittman, he writes both a column (The Minimalist) and a blog, (Bitten), for the New York Times. He's a fountain of food knowledge, and he can quite literally tell you how to cook everything. Today's entries cover two of his recently published recipes, which cover all manner of cuisines and always sound delicious and simple and like exactly what you want to make for dinner.

The first is the incredibly easy creamy polenta with sausage and parmesan. The recipe can be found here, along with an accompanying article in which Bittman attempts to take the fear out of polenta.

creamy polenta with sausage and parmesan

As exotic as it sounds, polenta is really only cornmeal cooked in hot water, and it makes a great change of pace from rice, pasta or potatoes. Nathan and I have made several batches of polenta in the past few months, and at first I tried adding the polenta to boiling water, as I had seen recommended online. This method requires a steady hand and great deal of patience, as the cornmeal will clump if you add too much at once and do not stir constantly. Bittman suggests mixing the cornmeal and cold water into a slurry and then cooking it, adding water as needed. This is definitely the way to go. After cooking for about 20 minutes, I finished off the polenta with butter and grated romano cheese (which I almost always use in lieu of parmesan), and served it with some sliced sweet Italian sausage, making sure to scrape up the pan drippings for a sauce. Served with a salad, this was an excellent and extremely easy dinner.

simple and full of flavor

The second Bittman dinner I've recently prepared is his ginger fried rice. I'd been wanting to make for a few weeks now, especially after it was featured in another one of my favorite cooking blogs only days after I first found the recipe. The reason I had put it off was that I didn't have ginger, but I came home one night and was pleasantly surprised to find that Laura had bought some. How serendipitous!

ginger fried rice topped with a fried egg

Of course, I still had to switch quite a few things around based on other missing ingredients, but that's par for the course when I'm in the kitchen. I used scallions instead of leeks, vegetable oil instead of peanut oil, and toasted sesame seeds instead of sesame oil. I do love some sesame oil though, so I intend to buy some and make this again some time. I also don't have soy sauce, but I never like that too much anyway. Other than those substitutions, I pretty much followed the recipe. Minced and fried the garlic and ginger with some sesame seeds, and then set them aside. I then fried up the scallions until they started to crisp up slightly, and added the rice. I cooked the rice until it got stickier and browner, because that's how I like my fried rice. I seasoned it with salt and pepper and topped with the garlic, ginger, sesame seeds and a runny egg fried sunny side up. I won't say it couldn't have used a splash of soy, and I might have used a few too many sesame seeds, but all in all I was satisfied. Not bad Mr. Bittman, not bad.

UPDATE 6/1/10: Here is another photo of this fried rice, with an unbroken yolk and the addition of sliced mushrooms. I also had the proper sesame oil and soy sauce. The former is a nice touch, but without the latter I would not bother making fried rice ever again. It really does make a world of difference.

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