Sunday, 6 October 2013

Southern Comfort

Polenta con Radicchio, Speck & Ricotta Salata
Polenta with Radicchio, Bacon and Salted Ricotta

Of course most Italian food could be considered comfort food- down to earth, hearty and delicious as it invariably is... and with pasta bakes and soups, minestrones and risottos for the colder, winter months, there is always plenty of variety to choose from. Oh- and then there is always polenta too!

I love polenta- quick, simple, satisfying and delicious, it great to use as a side dish to so many meat or vegetable dishes and wonderful as a meal in itself! A friend of mine had ordered polenta with radicchio in Rome just a week ago, which I found to be a great combination... and which inspired me to come up with a version of my own... and I have to admit- I really think that mine was much, much better! I know how bad that sounds... but it is true!

The polenta itself, I made this time around, using some vegetable stock- and yes, I did use a soup cube! Fresh is better, I usually do it... but sometimes when you are running a little late... you know what- it's not the worst thing in the world! And really- who doesn't appreciate a little helping hand every now and then? 

So I got the half soup cube dissolved and boiling away and added 3 tablespoons of polenta. The water was enough to make one good sized bowl of polenta. I reduced the heat to a low simmer and stirred in the polenta little by little. soon enough it began to bubble and spit like a volcano and to thicken up dramatically. I added a little milk to thin it down a little and grated it with just a little nutmeg, then stirred it through and put it on the back burner at a very low heat and let it continue simmering whilst I prepared the radicchio...

I started off by frying a handful of finely diced bacon in a dry frying pan- juggling between stirring the polenta and stirring it, to keep the polenta from sticking and to get the bacon nice and brown all over. Whilst that was going on, I quickly cut the radicchio into relatively thin strips and added them to the bacon with just a hint of very finely chopped garlic. 

At that point, after around 20 minutes of cooking time, the polenta was ready- and the radicchio was ready to be taken off the heat after just 3-4 minutes too. I kept tossing it in the frying pan- the residual heat there was more than enough to let it brown a little and also to let it wilt down and soften up.

With the heat turned off, I added just the tiniest hint of honey and a drop or two of balsamic vinegar... and with one last toss for good luck, I was ready to serve!

I spooned the radicchio on top of the polenta first, followed by the crispy little bacon bits, then a nice sprinkle of grated, salted Ricotta, some freshly ground pepper, a sprinkle of parsley and a dash of olive oil... YUM! I mean- you KNOW that tasted good! You just do! And you know very well that the next miserable, dark and dreary day when you are needing some warming and delicious comfort food, that this is what you need to be making and eating- and enjoying! 

That's what cooking and what great food is all about!

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