I had always supposed that fresh corn polenta would be a pain in the ass to make on my own, however, I learned otherwise while reading Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi (finally available over here in the U.S., my wonderful sister-in-law sent it over from the U.K. last year for Christmas). The recipe for the polenta was so simple and the result so delicious; it has become a new family favorite. While I liked the eggplant sauce Ottolenghi pairs with the polenta, I found the preparation a little involved for regular, weeknight cooking.
The polenta part of this recipe is adapted from Plenty; the rest is my own recipe based on what looked good at the store that day. This makes a great meal for a casual weeknight dinner party, especially since it is easy to prep the polenta days in advance.
If you are looking to get a head start on the week, make the polenta through step 5 and just stick the polenta in the fridge until you need it. This will reduce the overall cooking time from about 1 hour to about ½ hour. The polenta should keep 3-5 days.
I broke out the polenta preparation from the tomatoes and haddock, just to make it easy to take the polenta and combine it with whatever suits your fancy.
If you are looking for a vegan interpretation, the polenta is delicious and flavorful without the cheese or butter. Grilled portabella mushrooms would be a perfect substitute for the haddock.
6 ears of corn, husk and silk removed, washed and dried
½ – ¾ cup goat cheese or feta cheese
2 Tbsp butter
salt and pepper to taste
2 lbs haddock
smoked paprika, turmeric, salt and pepper to taste
1 lb cherry tomatoes
1 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
paprika, salt and pepper, to taste
if you have it, fresh basil, a few leaves roughly shredded
1. Fill a large saucepan about halfway with water. Place on stove on high heat and bring to a boil. Salt the water and turn the heat down to a rolling simmer.
2. Cut the kernels off the six ears of corn. Rachel Ray suggests putting a small bowl upside down inside another bowl. I think this sounds like a recipe for knife-ruining disaster, but hey, different strokes, right? I have also seen folks securing the ear of corn in the center of a bundt pan. That looks really easy; too bad I don’t own a bundt pan!
3. Once you have all the kernels cut off, put them in the simmering water. Cook for 10 minutes.
4. Using a slotted spoon, move the corn into a food processor. Keep a cup of the starchy cooking water in case you need to thin the polenta. Discard the rest of the liquid.
5. Process the corn for about 3-4 minutes. If the corn is not blending easily, add a little of that starchy cooking liquid, a few tablespoons at a time. The polenta will not become smooth; you just want to break down the kernels into a more batter-like consistency. When the polenta reminds you of chunky yellow cake mix; you’ve got fresh polenta.
6. Return the polenta to the large saucepan. Cook over low heat for about 15 minutes, until the polenta thickens slightly. Add the cheese and butter. Cook another 2 minutes, or until the cheese and butter are melted and incorporated. Season to taste.
Haddock and Tomato Sauce Preparation:
1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Coat with olive oil. Add the tomato paste. Add the onions, tomatoes and garlic. Cook about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. The sauce will be done when the tomatoes begin to burst and the onions and garlic are soft. Season with paprika, salt and pepper to taste.
2. Heat another skillet over medium-high heat. Coat with olive oil.
3. Dry the haddock with a paper towel. Season with the paprika, turmeric, salt and pepper. Cook about 5 minutes on the first side, flip and cook another 3-5 minutes, depending on thickness.
4. Spoon some polenta into the bottom of the bowl. Top with a piece of haddock and some of the sauce. If you have some handy, shred a little fresh basil on top of each dish.