moving and polenta



every time i’ve moved i swear i’ll never do it again. and then we found this cottage, in the hills above the river, with chickens and guinea hens roaming, a very old elm outside the windows, two fire places and enough room to have guests, like our friend sumner. well, we simply had to do it again. it took the first half of this month to make the house ours, cozy, and the other night we built our first fire, and another to sit by, though still on boxes, and have tea in the morning. now that we are settled, sort off, i've read about polenta in the times. mark bittman’s is a quick, simple affair, straight yellow parmesan mush topped with fresh sausage, and as the man said, you can do anything with polenta. well, almost.
i like making mine the slow way. ever since doing martha’s quick cook i have resented a rush at the stove, true, especially after making time in the kitchen of fernand point. or now, as i gather cues of 18th century culinary notions in bodoni’s parma.
my way for polenta makes for a while. s’nothing ephemeral about the little volcanos, those gentle bubbles making my pot smile. after the initial slurry of cornmeal and water, set up cool and whisked clear of lumps, i like using my fat bottomed pot, the christmas creuset from stephanie. if, for an instant i do lust after those old style coppers, dinged with dents of time and so very pretty to hold. once the slush has slicked and is smooth the pot goes on the fire. on a slow flame. just enough heat to have the mash get up to bubbles. i’ve cut an old wooden long ladle flat and at an angle and use it to scrape the bottom of the pan. as the goo thickens - it begins to look like it’s done, but still tastes like raw cornmeal - i gradually add milk and later on cream to keep the liquid at level. so, while the guineas bark on the back lawn, i turn down the heat for my brooding polenta. it has, like some small early mount helen, the occasional bubble. the heat of the pot does most of the work now. for an hour, may be longer. yes, i keep folding and stirring once in a while, but i like being in my kitchen and now get to prep what ever finishing notions i have for this dish. butter, always more butter. i might grate parmesan, or roast thin slivered pale cipollini. a well-seasoned culotte wants a searing over charcoal. stephanie likes small cuts of a hard salami finoccio over her creamy polenta. me, i love the dish as buttery desert, mingled with demerara sugar and dried sour cherries, plumped up in armagnac. you can have it any old way you want, as long as its done slow. have it as hush puppies or grits, baked, grilled, slathered on cremini, or contorno aside osso bucco. this sly corn concoction would well do fine in some fancy dive taking on a heap of shaved truffles.