Saturday, 21 February 2015

Polenty of Flavor!

Polenta con Radicchio & Cipolla Caramellate & Timo
Polenta with Caramelized Onion & Radicchio & Thyme

A simple dish for a cold Winter's evening- using just 3 ingredients, a little chicken broth, a little thyme and just salt, pepper, sugar and nutmeg... and yet such an amazingly tasty and satisfying meal at the same time!

The bitterness of the radicchio complimented by the sweetness of the onion, the soft, rich mildness of the polenta and the freshness of the thyme... it all comes together! And it all works sooo well!

This is the kind of food I would be making if I happened to live out in the country, in Italy say... which, come to think of it is a rather stupid notion and thought to have! It was what I was thinking when I first had the idea for this dish- and then I though- why the heck shouldn't I be eating it just because I live in the middle of a city? Absolutely no reason not to do so- and so many reasons why I SHOULD do so!

It seems sad to think of fast food, sandwiches, snacks and suchlikes as the foods of city-folks! Me? I simply want simply, plain, good food- and NONE of those things!


See how simple the ingredients for a good meal can be? It is such a shame that we have lost touch with simple ingredients and meals that are down-to-Earth and good for us! Just 1 radicchio, 1 onion, 2 cupfuls of coarse grain polents and a little thyme- those were the main things. Then came 4 cups of chicken broth, a little olive oil for frying the onion and radicchio, 2 teaspoons of sugar and a little salt, pepper and freshly grated nutmeg.


I used the really chunky, "Bramata" polenta, but any polenta will do. And I kept things simple- a little herb flavor from the thyme, a hint of nutmeg and some mild, rich, chicken broth made it wonderful enough for me to not give it a second thought. The only thing I was thinking, when I prepared this, was that I should keep things really, really simple!


There are a lot of dishes where radicchio is used- most of them add a little sugar or honey- but I never tried one of them that ended up tasting as well-balanced as this one!


By now the water had all been absorbed by the polenta and it was well on its way to being cooked. At this point, I added the chicken broth and a little water, until there was almost twice as much liquid as polenta. I brought it up to the boil, then reduced the heat to a very low simmer and let it ever-so-gently cook away for the next 30 minutes or so.

Next, the onions went into the pan, with a good splash of olive oil, a little salt and a good deal of stirring for the first 5 minutes. I then deglazed the pan with a quick splash of water and continued stirring until it was also absorbed, then added a teaspoon of sugar and kept stirring until the onions became golden. I popped on the lid and let them soften and finish cooking for 5 minutes, then set the covered frying pan to one side for them to continue cooking in the residual heat.


I then popped the radicchio into a hot frying pan with a splash of olive oil and a pinch of salt and stir-fried it until it became nicely shiny and glazed. I then added a teaspoon of sugar as well and tossed it around until it became golden and began to wilt. I left it in the pan to soften in the residual heat also whilst I served up the polenta... and in those 4-5 minutes it became lovely and dark and caramelized- and so delicious!


This is what I am talking about!


And of course, served up with a decorative sprig or two of fresh thyme, it looks much prettier... but I never add garnished simply for their appearance...

You can bet your bottom dollar that I picked that thyme up, plucked those little leaves from the stem and sprinkled them all over that dish! And I hope you can imagine how much livelier it made all of those other good flavors!


Good, earthy flavors and rich, tasty food- perfect of a cold Winter's night as I already mentioned- as well as being inexpensive and healthy! And what's not to love about that? 



  1. This looks like just the thing for the extreme cold we've been having on this side of the pond lately. I love radicchio, thought sadly it's very hard to find the Treviso type around here. Suppose this would work with the round, Chioggia variety, too?

  2. The round one will work just fine, Frank- It has the exact same flavor after all. I would simply cut it into bite-sized pieces and use it in the same way as I did the Trevisano... I can't help but love my bitter greens! Hope you enjoy it too if you give it a try! Best wishes from across the sea ! Francesco