Saturday, March 23, 2013

"The Quattro-P"

"The Quattro-P" - Poached Parmigiano Prosciutto Polenta
It seems that polenta is enjoying a resurgence in the restaurants lately.  My mom was a fan, and although it took a long time for me to catch on (believe it) I've been a fan for a long time now too.

This breakfast is a reminder that as my mother taught me, if you keep good ingredients in your house, you don't need a lot to create tasty stuff "on the spot."

After a crisp morning walk with my pup (ok, so crisp is a stretch for 33F in almost April, but I'm being positive here) and a hot mug of french press... I'm thinking "I don't have much in the house to eat, and I'd like something tasty with my Saturday morning Jazz" (thanks Uncle Gep.)

I've had spectacular polenta and eggs most recently at Nick's On Broadway so when I saw the polenta in my pantry my mind went straight to work... there was also fresh prosciutto, a nice piece of Parmigiano Reggianito, and some fresh Oregano... breakfast had taken shape and here's how you do "The QP":


  • White Polenta (~ 1/4c per serving)
  • (2) eggs (poached 3 min)
  • (1) slice of fresh, paper thin prosciutto
  • Parmigiano Reggianito, shredded (~1/4c per serving, reserve a bit to top the egg)
  • freshly ground black pepper & sea salt
  • fresh oregano (for garnish, but it's garnish I'm eating!)

Polenta:  Prepare the polenta according to your tastes and the instructions.  I disregard the water recommendations and add water/cook to a smoothness and consistency I like... it takes about 5-10 minutes, and then I let it stand in the pot - it holds heat just fine.

The rest:  I will assume you don't need me to tell you how to poach the eggs, but the "order of operations" once your polenta is standing, is to:
  1. Start the eggs poaching
  2. Add the cheese to the polenta (and a little water, if necessary to achieve your desired consistency. I like it very thick, and find I get good creaminess especially with a lovely cheese like the Reggianito, that I can avoid cream.  Certainly, cream adds decadence but sometimes we can do without... so it's your call, this will be tasty either way.) Move quickly while the eggs are poaching!
  3. Plate the polenta, I used a little crock, as you can see, but any ramekin will work equally well
  4. Place the prosciutto on top of the polenta
  5. Just as the egg(s) finish, place atop the prosciutto & polenta and garnish with the reserved cheese & the oregano.  Add salt & pepper to taste.

The beauty of the "crock" presentation is that the softer polenta (than say if you bake it into a cake) will combine with the egg yolk and the cheese, and then there's the saltiness of the prosciutto and the savory in the oregano, lions and tigers and bears, OH MY... it was good.

So please give it a try, leave me comments, and please remember:  To know good food IS to be close to God.  À salut!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Cranberry & Orange Nut Oatmeal

McCann's Steel Cut Cranberry & Orange Nut Oatmeal
Inspired by my conversation with fratre John Reed yesterday, I went digging in my pantry for Oatmeal fixin's this morning.

I found my dried cherries, cran-berries and chopped walnuts and was starting my usual combination when I heard "OOH, OOH!" (like Horseshack from Mr. Cott-air) coming from the cloves and the orange zest on my spice rack - and so naturally, I investigated!

This bowl of delicious-ness is all-natural and unprocessed (enough for me, anyway!) but I'll cut right to the chase:

Ingredients (for single serving, multiply as needed):
1/3 cup McCann's 5-min steel cut oats
1 c water
2-3 Tbsp dried, sweetened cranberries (more/less as desired)
2-3 Tbsp chopped walnuts (more/less as desired)
1/2 tsp orange zest (more/less to taste)
pinch of ground cloves
1 Tbsp REAL maple syrup
1/2 Tbsp (2 pats) of butter
1/4 c whole milk (or 2 Tbsp condensed milk, which is my preference)

Follow the instructions for preparing the McCann's, adding these steps.  note:  this is all easily done in under 15 minutes, so don't start thinking "Oh, this is too complicated for me," because it's not, and I promise you it is SO MUCH BETTER than the flavored sawdust some companies try to pass off as "oatmeal" in those instant packs!  We're talking TEN to FIFTEEN minutes here!  Ok, ready? SO...

  1. Chop the cranberries to a desired fine-ness (you can also leave them whole)*
  2. Crush the chopped walnuts to a desired fine-ness (again, you may leave whole)*
  3. Boil the water (I told you this was easy...)
  4. Add the oats, return to a boil, and lower heat to simmer.
  5. Add the cranberries, walnuts, orange zest, cloves, and 1 pat of butter
  6. Cook the oats to McCann's instructions.  Add a little more water and go a little longer if you like softer (or soupier) oats.  When done to your liking, proceed.^
  7. Add the syrup & mix in thoroughly
  8. Add the milk (If using whole milk, you may need to simmer a little further to reduce again to your desired thickness.  You can also anticipate the milk addition, and call your oats "done" a little sooner in step 6.  With practice you'll find what works for you.  If you use condensed milk, you shouldn't need to simmer any longer, just mix it in and proceed to step 9.)
  9. Pour it into a bowl, add the remaining pat of butter and enjoy with your favorite coffee (or other breakfast beverage... are there other breakfast beverages?  I've heard there are, but I don't know any of them...)
* I like the size of pine nuts for this, and reserve a few to sprinkle on top if you want...
^ I like my oats al dente like my pasta, and find the 5-7 min McCann calls out does it.

I found the flavors at these amounts comforting and subtly complimentary, I don't have a big sweet tooth (or I'd add more syrup) and I like to taste the cranberries and the nuts equally with the natural flavor of the oats!  You can customize to your own palette however; I hope you'll try and leave your comments of how it goes below.

Finally, as I move on to enjoy the rest of my Sunday, with my belly full of tasty oats I will remind you once again:  To know good food is to be close to God, À salut!