Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Fried Polenta With Sauteed Spinach And Lardons Of Bacon

Do you ever get tired of the same old side dishes over and over?  Corn, peas, beans and carrots fixed 5 different ways to Sunday.  And of course, potatoes and rice done to death.  Sometimes I just want something different, with a little punch of flavor - a hint of spice or heat.  I whipped this up one night to go with a pasta dish we were having and it was such a hit, I have continued to make it.

We do love spinach in our household - baby spinach to be exact.  I often saute' it with garlic and olive oil to serve as a side.  We also eat a lot of fresh spinach in salads which is super delicious.  But, this dish is something different and is excellent served with pasta.

Do you ever use polenta?   Polenta is made with ground yellow or white cornmeal (ground maize), which can be ground coarsely or finely depending on the region and the texture desired.   Wikipedia   You can buy it in tubes like in the picture below and you can get it in different flavors.  For this recipe, you just want plain old polenta.  Delish!

 We love it sliced and  fried all crispy and brown around the edges and topped with something delicious.  Just slice it in rounds and fry in a pan with a little oil.  I use olive oil for this recipe.

 Growing up my mom used to fix what we called fried mush and topped it with maple syrup for breakfast.  Well, mush meet polenta.  Same thing, just a much fancier name.  Polenta - has a nicer ring to it doesn't it?  We had polenta for dinner.  Yes.  We had mush for dinner.  Nope.

Actually, polenta was considered peasant food in Italy just as mush would have been considered poor man's food here in the good old USA.   My research tells me that mush was a southern staple, so that explains why my "Kentucky" side of the family ate it.  Polenta now has achieved a new place in the world of cuisine, being served in many fancy restaurants.  If you watch the Food Network, you will see polenta prepared by many of the chefs and I must say, I do love it!

Now, let's talk about smoked bacon.

I buy smoked bacon at the farmer's market in fragrant little chunks like the one above and it is so fabulous to use for adding amazing layers of flavor to any recipe.  You get so much "oomph" with just a few little lardons cooked all crisp and brown.  Now "lardon" is a fancy term I learned on the Food Network.  It is pronounced lar-DONE (long O) and is a French term.  It means to cut little match stick pieces of bacon.  That's it.  Yeah, fancy huh?  Learn the term and use the technique in your next recipe!  You will impress everyone when you ask if they love the lardons of bacon.

Here is how you make lardons.  Just cut a piece across the bacon about 1/4 inch thick.  Then, you slice that piece into little match stick pieces to cook.  If all you have is strip bacon, just place a few strips on top of each other, place them parallel to you and cut across the strips in about 1/4 inch pieces.  It is just not as thick as the country bacon, but will serve the purpose.  Remember - lardons!  Use the term to impress!!

Now, place the lardons in a saute pan with just a few drops of olive oil and cook until crispy.  Cutting them this size lets them cook at the same time.
When they are nice and crispy, remove the bacon lardons from the pan.   This keeps them from getting soggy while you cook the remainder of the dish.

Add 2 cloves of garlic that you have minced and quickly saute'.  Now, add 1 bag of spinach a few hands full at a time and let it wilt down, stirring as it does.  Throw in a couple pinches of red pepper flakes for a little kick.  Remove from the pan and add the bacon.  Place a few rounds of fried polenta on a plate and cover with some of the sauteed spinach (and be sure and get some of that bacon in there),  It's all garlicky and bacony and spinachy and  yummy.  Mm Mm Mm

This is really an easy recipe to make and it is wonderful as an alternative to always serving a salad with pasta.  The contrast of the crispy fried polenta is so good with the sauteed spinach.  Actually, you could serve this with just about any entree.

Give this recipe a try next time you want something a little different.  And, if you want to try polenta for breakfast with some maple syrup, give it a shot!  It's very tasty and a nice alternative to all the regular breakfast fair.  Polenta - the new mush.

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

"Polenta? Oh, you mean Italian grits."    unknown

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