Polenta to the Rescue

The other night I felt like a contestant on the Food Network’s chef game show, “Chopped.” I wasn’t really prepared to cook dinner and was trying to cobble something together from my basket of mystery ingredients. Plus, it was 6:15 pm and everyone had to be finished eating by 7:10 pm to get to their various practices and evening classes.

I had thin sliced chicken breast, plum tomatoes and a sweet onion along with a pantry stocked with gluten-free side dishes such as quinoa, rice, cooked polenta and frozen sweet potato waffle fries. I had jars of salsa, tapenade, marinara and this Trader Joe’s red pepper spread with eggplant and garlic.

I got out every fry pan I had in my cupboards and just fired up the stove top. Into one went the thin sliced chicken breasts with a little salt and pepper. Into another went a little butter with sliced rounds of polenta. Into a third pan went a little olive oil with rough chopped sweet onion and tomatoes. Once the chicken was done, I threw it on top of the onions and tomatoes and then added half the jar of the red pepper spread and some chicken stock and let it all come together. I think I had the entire dinner prepared in seventeen minutes.

Rice is my steady standby as a side dish, but even I get sick of it after a while. I happen to love polenta fried up this way. I am not as crazy about polenta when it looks like porridge. Plus, I think it only tastes good this way if it is loaded with cream and cheese, which would not sit well in a kid’s stomach before a basketball practice. Pan frying the sliced polenta gives it a nice brown crust and I thought it would be tasty with the chicken and the sauce layered on top.

After twenty minutes, I tried to artfully plate the polenta rounds with the chicken and this beautiful red sauce with chunks of tomato and onion. I was prepared for lots of groaning and a few refusals to eat, but to my surprise I only had one kid moan and groan.

I thought for sure one would scrape all the sauce into a corner of the plate and just eat the chicken; however she just picked out the onions and ate everything else! Two ate the entire dish and the complainer had a peanut butter and jelly.

I need to restock those pantry shelves again and I am definitely going to figure out more ways to use polenta!

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  • Polenta is a wonderful staple, coming from an Italian family we ate it all the time. Being I live a gluten free diet I love that am able to eat it any way, I do polenta lasagna, I use polenta bruchetta, fry in the mornings on the griddle like a pancake with a wildberry sauce. So many ways to prepare polenta savory or sweet.
    Chef Marina Crispi NY