Thursday, November 8, 2012

Corn alla CorningWare - Creamy Breakfast Polenta

I have noticed, over the years, that it is not just the resulting food that makes cooking so pleasurable; sometimes the equipment you are using adds to the enjoyment.  Thus it is with my CorningWare Saucemaker.  An interesting piece of CorningWare to be sure.  It's shape is completely out of the ordinary when compared to the normal "Square" offerings.

The Saucemaker was produced in both a 1 quart and 2 quart size from 1963 to the early 70's.  Available with or without lids, and sometimes available with or without a handle; though since there is only 1 "handle tab" due to the ingenious triple pour spout design, it's pretty much mandatory that you have said handle to attach to the tab in order to efficiently utilize the pot.  The graduated marks inside make cooking sauces a little easier, though I have noticed on one of my 1 quarts.... Yes, I have two of the 1 quart models, one of which does not have a lid, and one of the 2 quart models, which has a lid... that the printed measurements are slightly off.

Evidently, these 1 quart and 2 quart Saucemakers have model numbers of P-64 & P-65, respectively, though none of mine are marked this way... They simply say "Saucemaker" on the side where the handle attaches.  Recently I even saw a 1 quart model on eBay with it's original box.  The box was marked with a P-55.  Likewise, the lids, made by Pyrex, are not marked either, but I have found that they DO actually have model numbers of P-64-C and P-65-C.  My assumption is that the "C" stands for "cover".

I love these little pots.  But I must admit that it is the 1 quart size the most often.  That is simply because I make SO much risotto.  The properties of Pyroceram make it the perfect receptacle for heating up my stock and keeping it hot throughout the risotto making process.  The addition of the pour spouts means I can add stock to my rice, without having to dirty a ladle as well.  Fewer dishes always makes me a happy camper, I must say.  But there is another Italian dish that these Saucemakers are perfect for.  Polenta.

I adore good Polenta.  A fact I still find somewhat surprising, because I don't particularly care for grits.  Go figure.  I think it has to do with the type of corn and the treatment.  Grits are made from Dent corn and polenta is made from Flint corn.  Two completely different flavors.  Add to that, the fact that sometimes you end up with Hominy grits and I begin to shudder.  I understand WHY the corn is soaked in lye water, but that doesn't mean I have to like it or eat it.  It just tastes like dirty chicken feathers to me.

In case your wondering why I know what dirty chicken feathers taste like..... I use to have to clean out the chicken coop when I as a kid, and by the end of the horrendous experience, I could actually taste the dirty chicken feathers mixed with the cedar toe (cedar "shavings" now days).  It's one of those unpleasant things you just never forget.

Unwashed chickens and tree feet aside.....

This morning, I was hungry for Polenta and Eggs.  Meaning I wanted soft breakfast Polenta.  Some may argue that this makes it Grits, but I do not, for I am using fine ground Flint corn.  The whole idea of soft breakfast polenta is that it is smooth and creamy, making it the perfect accompaniment to a braised egg.  When I make Polenta for dinner, I use a slightly coarser grind making the polenta a little more hearty in texture.  The finer grind I use for "breakfast" also means that the starches gelatinize a little faster, so I don't have to cook it quite as long.  In truth it only saves about 10-15 minutes, but hey, every little bit helps.

This polenta has a slightly higher "water" content, so it will not "set-up" the way it normally would.  Just so you know and don't get frustrated trying to make it solidify for frying.  If this is your goal, reduce the chicken stock by 1/2 cup to give you a full 3 to 1 ratio. (only part of the cream counts as water)  

Creamy Polenta and Braised Eggs   

2 cups Chicken Stock
1 cup Heavy Cream
2/3 cup Fine Ground Flint Cornmeal
2 oz shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano (not "grated", it does not melt as smooth and will cause graininess)
1/4 tsp White Pepper
Kosher Salt
CorningWare Saucemaker (P-64)
4 braised Eggs (Using a CorningWare 6 1/2 inch Skillet (P-83-B), with lid)

Combine Chicken Stock and Heavy Cream in your CorningWare Saucemaker, then set it over medium flame.

Go ahead, while you are waiting, and measure out the fine cornmeal,

and the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Once the Stock/Cream mixture comes to a boil, grab a whisk and begin swirling the liquid in the pot,
creating a vortex in the center.

Slowly sprinkle the corn meal in the center of the vortex while you continue whisking, to prevent lumps.

Once you have added all the cornmeal, you may stir less vigorously.

Bring back to a boil, while stirring, then reduce the flame and simmer the polenta, stirring every 5 minutes or so, until it becomes thick and will hold a line when dropped from the whisk, about 35-45 minutes.

Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano and stir until it has completely melted.

Season with White Pepper and Kosher Salt (though you may not need the salt)
Polenta may be kept warm for up to 1 hour by setting the Saucemaker in a larger pot filled with simmering water.
Which give you time to braise your eggs in a CorningWare skillet (P-83-B).

Spoon the polenta into bowls as you finish braising each egg, and sprinkle with fresh cracked black pepper and you are good to go.

Creamy smooth polenta and braised eggs.... Breakfast of champions, especially after the yolk has been broken and added to the cheesy deliciousness.

Where is your Corningware?