apr 09 2010

Polenta w/ Caramellized Onions

Published by at 14:55 under Ukategorisert

This is pure comfort food. Creamy polenta with sweet sweet onions caramellized in their own juices. The polenta takes about an hour to cook, and that’s about as long as I let the onions sizzle slowly in the pan. Towards the end of their cook time I added a glob of full fat dairy butter and some dried sage. Heavenly! This is simple Italian food at its best. Slow cooked and full of flavor. Although I quite liked pretending to be an Italian house wife stirring that pot for ever and ever I got bored after a while (say, 5 minutes ?)  so I made a batch of thick tomato sauce too – it was a reeeaaallyyy nice addition to my second serving of polenta along side the onions.
I think I could eat this every day.

Polenta recipe


  • 1,25 liters of water/ about 5,2 US cups
  • 1 tablespoon of salt
  • 300 grams coarse corn meal (coarse is best, trust me)
Bring the water to a boil, add the salt, then add the corn meal by drizzling it into the boiling water little by little whilst stirring the whole time. You want to add the corn meal carefully and not to fast, as you don’t want to stop the water from boiling, in order to avoid a lumpy polenta. And you don’t want a lumpy polenta. No sirree, lumpy polentas are the worst. After you’ve successfully added all the corn meal to the water you want to make yourself comfortable and stir that pot for 45 minutes to an hour, never leaving your spot in front of the pot. Na, I’m just kidding. In the beginning you’ll need to stir constantly but when you see that the polenta is starting to thicken you’ll only need to stir every 10 minutes or so. You know it’s finished when it reaches a thick porridge like consistency and the corn grits have a kind of jelly like feel to them. The long cooking time brings out all the starch from the maize and makes them gelatinous. Which is what you want. The jellyness of the corn is what gives the polenta the silky creamy texture that makes my toes curl with joy. Some use half milk-half water instead of just water, and some add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil or butter to the cooking liquid. I didn’t do either, but I’m sure it’s delicious. Now, you can either pour the hopefully lump-less polenta on to a serving platter and dig in, or you can pour it into a pan, let it cool, then slice it into wedges and fry them in sage infused browned butter. YUM! I have to do that sometime. Or you can layer a meaty thick bolognese sauce between slices of polenta, kinda like a lasagna. I gotta do that sometime too. And the best thing is, polenta keeps forever! This makes  for a pretty big portion, which is good since you’ve used an hour of your precious time preparing it, and if you put the leftovers in your fridge they’ll keep for a week, at the least. I wouldn’t know, since we ate it all over the course of a weekend. Whatever you choose to do, make the caramellized onions to serve on top of the polenta!

Caramellized Onions in Sage Butter


  • 5 medium sized yellow onions (the smaller the better), slized as thin as possible
  • 2 tablespoons of neutral cooking oil, I use rape seed oil
  • 1 tablespoon of salted dairy butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage or a couple of fresh sage leaves
Heat the oil in a cast iron skillet or a nonstick pan, add all the onions, the salt and sugar, stir it all around a bit, turn the heat down to medium-low and let the onions sizzle away for as long it takes to cook your polenta, about 45 minutes. You don’t need the sugar really, since the onions are naturally sweet, I’ve just found that adding the tiny amount of sugar «starts them off» in caramellizing. Don’t let the onions brown too much, they should just collapse and turn golden, not burnt at all. After 30 minutes add the butter and sage, and turn down the heat even more.The aroma in your kitchen at this moment is incredible! I want to marry that smell, if marrying a smell was possible, that is. Okay, maybe not marry, but at least have a summer romance with it. It’s THAT delicious.

Gloopy thick red tomato sauce


  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 4 desiliters milk
  • 5 tablespoons or more of tomato puré
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon salt
  • ground black pepper
  • a pinch of crushed dried chili pepper or a pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon  Heinz tomato ketchup
  • dried herbs of your choice, I used dried thyme, oregano, basil and marjoram
  • Either fresh chopped onions and garlic or dried powder. Either is fine.
Start off by making a bechamél sauce; melt the butter in a casserolle, add the flour, let it cook for a little while until you have lump of dough, add a splash of milk, let it cook for a while, add another splash of milk, let it cook, more milk..you see the pattern ? You’ll  either need a good whisk or a big wooden spoon, I prefer the latter, for some reason I cannot express. I use medium-high heat because it’s quicker, but you might want to use medium-low temp if you haven’t made a bechamél sauce before. The foundation for a lump-less sauce is made in the first few splashes of milk; if you manage to stir the butter-flour-milk mix to a smooth batter between each addition of milk, you won’t get lumps in your sauce, period. When you’ve added all the milk turn the heat down low, and let it simmer for at least 5 minutes to cook off the flour taste. Then you can add the other stuff; tomatopuré, spices, ketchup and dried herbs. I can’t really tell exactly how much tomato pureé I added, I have to taste the sauce several times and check it’s colour; it’s supposed to be a warm tomatoey red, pretty much like in the picture. Oh ! If you have onion and garlic powder, add that too. They’re nice. Of course you could add fresh onion and garlic at the beginning with the butter, but that takes some extra effort and since you’re already using tomato purée instead of fresh tomatoes I don’t think it matters too much if you use the dried stuff. This sauce is delicious spooned over your fresh polenta, or even over pasta or as a pizza sauce. It has a different flavour than tomato sauces made purely from fresh tomatoes and garlic, they’re two completely different things. For a hearty dish like polenta I luuurv this kind of tomato sauce. Or over fried slices of aubergine. Or zucchini spagetti. or…I think I need to stop right now. Too much salivating can’t be good for me.

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