Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Pumpkin polenta, sausage and fennel...

When Jeff came home this evening and saw a bowl of coarse cornmeal sitting on the kitchen island, this silly grin came across his face and he said "I hope you are going to tell me we're having polenta for dinner!". We were, in fact, but I knew what would make him even more happy was the fact we'd be working in some sausage too!

The original recipe did call for using instant polenta, which you certainly can, but as I've mentioned before, we enjoy the longer process and resulting flavor that is allowed to develop when you use a coarser cornmeal that takes awhile to prepare. So, the first thing we needed to do for this Pumpkin Polenta With Italian Sausage and Fennel was to get busy with that!

Instead of using water, the recipe uses a combination of chicken stock and mashed pumpkin to cook the cornmeal - once you have gradually whisked in the cornmeal, don't forget to hit it with a couple pinches of salt. Polenta craves salt like crazy and even though you are using stock, you'll want to add a little in the beginning to ensure it will be well seasoned. Since the cornmeal we use is more coarse, it will need a good 40 to 50 minutes to cook - when it is ready, it should be fairly thick and the graininess should be gone. If you seem to go through the liquid a bit fast and it seems to dry, you can definitely add water to loosen it back up - if you add too much, don't fret, just cook it a bit longer until it is thick again. Once done, the mixture is spiked with nutmeg and fresh thyme, then given a shower of fresh grated Pecorino Romano cheese.

Before the polenta was ready, I started browning and crumbling a pound of sweet Italian turkey sausage. After scooping the meat out, a thinly sliced onion and a big ol' bulb of licorice-y fennel were thrown in and allowed to cook until they were very tender, but had not taken on any color. A glug of wine was added for acidity, followed by the cooked sausage to warm back up, and once the liquid had evaporated, we were good to go!

With a creamy pool of the polenta on the plates, we topped each with a heaping mound of the tender vegetable and meat duo to serve. I didn't know if I was going to like the nutmeg in the polenta, but it made for a good transition to reinforce the mild pumpkin flavor. I mentioned a little earlier, but check for seasonings with the polenta as you go - if not seasoned enough, it may seem a little lackluster and a bit flat. While excited for the polenta and sausage, Jeff was quietly concerned with the volume of fennel, but in the end, he was pleased by the light and clean element it brought to the dish.


  1. Oh I can taste it from here. That color is amazing, I don't know, like a sunrise. Just gorgeous.

  2. wow that looks both beautiful and delicious!