Tag Archives: polenta

Polenta Breakfast Bake

I rarely post on days that aren’t Wednesday or Friday, but I really wanted to get this recipe on here in time for Christmas. Consider this extra post a little gift from me to you.Polenta Breakfast BakeWe may not have done any holiday baking when I was a kid, but we still had plenty of Christmas food traditions. When I was growing up, my mom used to make a breakfast casserole every Christmas morning. While I was (and, honestly, continue to be) wary of any dish with “casserole” in the name, I made an exception for that one. Paired with Mom’s traditional all-citrus fruit salad,* it was impossible for even the pickiest of us to resist. It was so good that we didn’t complain when we were told we had to eat breakfast before opening our gifts. It was magic, I tell you.

*This is not a recipe—it’s literally just bite-sized pieces of navel orange and ruby red grapefruit with their membranes removed. Mix ‘em together in a bowl and chill overnight. Polenta Breakfast BakeNow, you may have noticed that I am speaking about my mom’s breakfast casserole in the past tense. That’s because she stopped making it about ten years ago, right about the time that my sisters and I started wanting more input in our holiday menu.

Another reason? Mom’s casserole was made with Bisquick. I have nothing personal against that mix—it’s responsible for every homemade pancake I ate as a child and I am forever grateful for its convenience—but I don’t use mixes these days.Polenta Breakfast BakeLong story short: today’s Polenta Breakfast Bake is an homage to the Christmas Morning Casserole of my childhood, minus the Bisquick, plus a creamy polenta base and some extra greens. It’s not my mom’s recipe, but it’s damn good.Polenta Breakfast BakePolenta Breakfast BakeAlso, it’s naturally gluten-free (thanks, coarse ground cornmeal!). And people think you’re fancy when you say you made polenta anything, so there’s that.Polenta Breakfast BakePolenta Breakfast BakeMy favorite thing about this recipe is that, like my mom’s, it doesn’t require any specific timetable. Flexibility is important when it comes to any holiday meal planning, but I am particularly opposed to any recipe that might require me to get up and start puttering around the kitchen when it’s still dark outside. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: sleep > baking (and, um, cooking too).Polenta Breakfast BakePolenta Breakfast BakeThis Polenta Breakfast Bake can be prepared morning-of, if you are an early bird, but I love that I can assemble it a day or two ahead and then just bake it for 25 minutes before serving. I have a hard time doing anything in the morning without the aid of coffee, but I can absolutely turn on the oven and bake a breakfast casserole for 25 minutes.Polenta Breakfast BakeHot from the oven, this Polenta Breakfast Bake will be a little hard to slice cleanly, so feel free to scoop it instead. I was able to slice the casserole pictured after letting it cool for about half an hour, but I’d be happy to eat this stuff in any shape (or lack thereof). Leftovers keep very well in the refrigerator and will slice & reheat like a freaking dream.Polenta Breakfast BakeOne last thing before I get to the recipe. Like all recipes on this site, I’ve made this Polenta Breakfast Bake to suit my own flavor preferences. I used breakfast sausage and cheddar cheese because those were prominent flavors in my mom’s recipe, but you can swap them for any meat and/or cheese you like in weights equal to those in the recipe. My only word of advice here is that if you choose to use bacon, remove it from the pan while you sauté the onion, garlic, and greens so that it doesn’t burn. Oh, and speaking of greens, feel free to leave ‘em out if you have picky eaters (or if breakfast vegetables just aren’t your thing).

That’s all a very long way of saying that you should take my favorite and make it yours ❤ Polenta Breakfast Bake
Looking for more holiday breakfasts? Check out these overnight Cinnamon Rolls, this Eggnog Puff Pancake {Dutch Baby}, and this whole round-up of breakfast time favorites!

Polenta Breakfast Bake
makes 8-12 servings

2 1/2 cups water
2 cups milk (preferably whole)
1 1/4 teaspoons fine sea salt, divided
1 1/2 cups polenta or coarse ground cornmeal
8 ounces freshly shredded sharp cheddar cheese (2 cups), divided
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (optional)
1 teaspoon prepared dijon mustard
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons olive oil
8 ounces raw breakfast sausage, removed from casings
1 medium white onion, diced small
4 cloves garlic, minced
10-12 ounces fresh greens, roughly chopped (I used a mix of baby spinach and baby kale)
4 large eggs
1/4-1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (based on preference)

Grease a 9×13-inch pan or other large casserole dish (a broiler-safe one, if possible).

Make polenta. Bring water and milk to a simmer. Keep an eye on it, as milk can boil over dramatically without much notice. Add 1 teaspoon salt. Whisking constantly, add polenta in a thin stream. Reduce heat to medium-low, whisking very frequently for 25-30 minutes, until thick. Remove from heat. Whisk in 6 ounces (~1 1/2 cups) cheese, cayenne and dijon, followed by butter. Transfer to a heatproof bowl and let sit 15 minutes.

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add breakfast sausage and cook, breaking it up with the edge of a spatula, until browned (about 8-10 minutes). Add diced onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add about half the greens and let wilt. Add remaining greens and cook until wilted. Remove from heat. Stir mixture into polenta.

In a small bowl, use a fork to whisk together eggs, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and black pepper. Stir eggs into polenta mixture. Transfer everything to prepared pan. It may be covered and refrigerated at this point for up to 48 hours.

Preheat oven to 425F. Scatter remaining 2 ounces (~1/2 cup) of cheese over the top. Bake uncovered for 25 minutes, or until golden at the edges, and slightly puffed and a little jiggly in the center. For an extra golden top, broil for 1-2 minutes. If your dish is not broiler-safe, you can heat the oven to 475F with the casserole on the top rack. Watching it closely, let it cook 5-10 minutes, turning as needed, until cheese has browned in places.

Let casserole cool for a few minutes. Scoop or slice and serve. Casserole will slice like a dream once cooled.

Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Cold slices reheat well in the microwave.

Leftovers may be kept covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Polenta Breakfast BakePolenta Breakfast BakePolenta Breakfast Bake

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Lamb Ragù with Parmesan Polenta

Lamb Ragù with Parmesan PolentaIt’s Election Day! For many of us, it’s the most stressful day since…Election Day 2012??? One great thing is that this part will be over soon. But we still have to get through the day.

When things are stressful, we often find solace in comfort food. My go-to is Baked Macaroni & Cheese, but maybe not for long.

Lamb Ragù with Parmesan PolentaY’all, today’s recipe is a doozy: Lamb Ragù with Parmesan Polenta. Oh my lord, is this good. The ragù itself is rich and deeply meaty, made with a very inexpensive cut of lamb that is simmered in tomato sauce until it’s extra tender. And the polenta! Ohhhh, the polenta. It’s quick, easy, and super cheesy.*

*Hey, that rhymes! In other news, I’m also cheesy.

This Lamb Ragù comes together in about two hours, but there is some real technique behind it. It all starts with preparing the lamb. Lay the chops in an even layer on a baking sheet and sprinkle them with salt. Massage it in a bit before flipping the chops and repeating the sprinkling and massaging. Then let it sit for 15-20 minutes. This step allows the lamb to get a good base flavor before it ever hits the pan. It also negates the need for additional salt. Once time is up, rinse the lamb in cold water and blot it dry with paper towels.

Lamb Ragù with Parmesan PolentaAnd now, for the real action: the ragù. The basic rule of ragù is brown everything. Brown the crud out of it. This step is where all the flavor develops! When you go to sear the lamb, make sure it really gets seared–you want deep brown color. Sauté the vegetables for a good 20 minutes, scraping up all the fond (stuff in the bottom of the pan) and caramelizing the bits of onion. When you stir the tomato paste into the vegetables, let it cook until it begins to darken. Trust me, all of this will be worth it. You don’t want to burn anything, of course, but you want it brown.

Once the browning is done, toss in some thyme, crushed red pepper flake, and bay leaves. Add a 28-ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes that you have crushed by hand before stirring in a couple of tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and three cups of beef stock. Bring all of that to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for an hour. Prepare for your kitchen to smell amazing.

Once the lamb is nice and tender, remove it from the pot. It won’t fall apart with the slightest nudge of a fork, but the bones should be loose. Shred the meat with two forks or pull it apart with your fingers. Add it back to the pot and then simmer for a few more minutes.

Lamb Ragù with Parmesan PolentaWhile the ragù is simmering, make the Parmesan Polenta. I know polenta sounds fancy, but it is super easy and really inexpensive to make. If you have cornmeal and water, you can make polenta. All you need to do is bring the water to a boil and then slowly add the polenta (or cornmeal) while whisking constantly. Don’t add the polenta to the water all in one go–this will make everything lumpy and unappetizing. Add it slowly and just keep whisking until everything is nice and smooth. Remove the pot from the heat and whisk in a little butter and a lot of grated Parmesan. Divide it among bowls, and top it with that gorgeous ragù.

One more thing about the polenta. This recipe makes enough for eight people. Unless you are having a dinner party (or you have a huge family), you likely don’t need that much. Feel free to cut the recipe in half for four servings. Heck, I cut it down to a single serving all the time (see note below). The polenta is best when it’s made just before serving.

Y’all, Lamb Ragù with Parmesan Polenta is comfort food at its finest. This meal is a treat on any fall or winter night. It’s great for any old dinner, but also fancy enough for a dinner party. And it’s the perfect meal with which to distract yourself while you watch the returns come in tonight.Lamb Ragù with Parmesan Polenta

Now, enough about food. GO VOTE!

Lamb Ragù with Parmesan Polenta
makes 6-8 servings

For the Lamb:
1 1/2-2 lbs bone-in lamb shoulder chops
1 tablespoon Kosher or sea salt
1-2 tablespoons olive oil

For the Ragù:
3 medium carrots, cut into chunks
3 stalks celery, cut into chunks
1 medium white onion, cut into chunks
3-5 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme)
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flake
2 bay leaves
1 28 ounce can whole peeled tomatoes in purée, crushed by hand
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 cups low-sodium beef broth (I like Better than Bouillon)

For the Polenta:*
8 cups water
1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
2 cups cornmeal or polenta
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese, grated

For Serving:
chopped fresh parsley
Parmesan cheese

Use a paper towel to blot lamb dry. Lay chops in a single layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with half the salt and briefly massage. Flip chops and sprinkle with the rest of the salt. Allow to sit for 15-30 minutes. Rinse chops in cold water and blot dry with paper towels.

Heat olive oil in a large non-reactive pot over medium-high heat. Working in batches, sear lamb on all sides. Set aside on a plate and tent with foil. Turn heat down to medium.

Place carrots, celery, onion, and minced garlic in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse or process until all vegetables are in pieces smaller than 1/2 inch, but not puréed. Add vegetables to the pot and let cook, stirring frequently, until starting to caramelize–about 20 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and continue cooking 3-5 minutes, until it begins to darken.

Return lamb and any accumulated juices to the pot. Add thyme, red pepper flake, and bay leaves. Stir in tomatoes and purée, balsamic vinegar, and beef broth. Bring to a boil before reducing the heat to low. Cover pot and allow to simmer one hour, stirring occasionally.

Remove lamb from pot. Allow to cool a few minutes before shredding with two forks or clean hands. Discard bones.

Remove bay leaves from the pot. Stir in shredded lamb. Turn heat up to medium-low and allow ragù to cook uncovered for 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat.

Make polenta. Bring water to a boil. Add salt. Whisking constantly, add cornmeal or polenta in a thin stream. Continue whisking for 2-3 minutes, until thick. Remove from heat. Whisk in butter and cheese. Divide polenta into bowls. Top with ragù. Sprinkle with fresh parsley or more cheese, if desired.

Note: Cut polenta recipe in half for four servings. To make polenta for one, use 1 cup of water, a pinch of salt, 1/4 cup polenta (or cornmeal), 1/2 tablespoon butter, and 3 tablespoons of grated Parmesan. The times and method are the same as written in the recipe.

Lamb Ragù with Parmesan Polenta