Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Plate of the day: Polenta with meat sauce and french green beans

I confess, we are carnivores at home, but meat doesn't need to be always the primary ingredient on a meal. Once in a while on Saturday mornings we visit the Farmers Market at the Pearl Brewery, besides getting fresh veggies (we love fresh mushrooms), we always look for grass fed beef, not cheap but worth the money.

Last time I purchased some skirt steak, NY strip and a cut for beef stew. This last cut was not more than a pound, but good enough for a good meat sauce. So today we put together some polenta with a hearty home made meat sauce, and following a good diet guided by my beloved wife as a side we included some sauté French green beans.

Stuff I used today, well lets say ingredients:

  • 1lbs of beef stew cut in small cubes
  • 1/2 chopped white onion
  • 2 chopped romano tomatoes
  • 2 packs (18oz) of traditional Italian pre-cooked polenta
  • 2 cans (8oz) tomato sauce not salted
  • 2 or 3 cloves of garlic (chopped very small)
  • 1lbs of French green beans
  • Grated cheese a piacere (please not yellow cheese)

Lets start with the easy part. Since we are going to sauté the green beans, first on a medium sauce pan put water to boil, and also get ready a bowl or other recipient with ice cold water. We are going to clear the green beans, as soon as the water is boiling, drop the green beans on the pan and leave them for few minutes, we don't want to cook them all way through, then take out the green beans and put them in the cold water to stop the cooking and then on a strainer to remove the water.

In parallel, put olive oil in a skillet or frying pan and also on a sauce pan. When the oil is hot put the meat on the skillet and the chopped onions on the sauce pan. We are going to just seal and brown the meat on the skillet, it will finish to cook in the sauce. When the onions start to get tender drop the chopped tomatoes, make sure they start to cook evenly with the help of a wooden spoon, and after few minutes pour the contents of the tomato sauce cans on the pan.

Season the meat with some salt and pepper (we regularly use coarse kosher salt), also season the sauce with salt, pepper, and other species you like, I used some paprika, a little bit of crushed laurel leaves and a tiny bit of sage.
When the meat is all brown transfer the meat and all the juices to the sauce pan, if the sauce looks too dense you can add some beef broth or plain water, let it simmer with a gentle fire.

Preheat the oven to 475F and cut the polenta in slices of about 1/3".

When the sauce is ready (about 20-25 minutes) start scooping some sauce out of the pan (leave the meat in there) and arrange the polenta in layers with the sauce and cheese. Today I used an Italian blend of cheeses with mozzarella, asiago, romano and parmessan, and some monterrey jack. When you are done layering the polenta slices top with more cheese and put in the oven for few minutes to create a gratin with cheese.

While you are waiting for the cheese to melt, heat some olive oil in a sauté pan, put the chopped garlic on the pan, stir with a wooden spoon and for two minutes let the oil absorb the flavor from the garlic, then drop the green beans on the pan and sauté them. Pay attention and make sure you are not burning the garlic.

When the cheese is fully melted take the polenta out of the oven and top with the rest of the sauce and the meat. And we are ready to serve !!

Bon appetit 

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