Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Grilled Polenta with Boudin Noir and chillies

Although slightly posh looking, what you see here was actually my breakfast.

Yeah. I know.

Anyway, I have a bit more time on my hands these days which allows  me the opportunity to fool around in the kitchen during the hours of natural light (extremely helpful for photography).  Thus I find myself making things like this for breakfast. The previous night had me making way too much polenta. I wanted some leftovers, but I think I went a bit hog wild.

The truth is, for a variety of reasons, I haven't had a chance to get back to the 'Little Italy-Kensington Market-Chinatown triangle' these last few weeks and I was desperately in need of food stuffs that the local mega-sized grocery store simply doesn't carry. (The irony is rich that the tiny little stores downtown carry a more diverse variety of goods than the vast acreage at suburban grocery stores.) So the other day, I gathered together several canvas shopping bags and boarded a streetcar for my favourite food shopping area in the city. What can be found there? Take for example a proper polenta. I like Bertozzi organic 'non-instant' polenta. Nothing compares to this product. The instructions call for a full 30 minutes of stirring, but I have found 20 minutes gives you what you need. Instant or 'quick' polenta sets and goes gummy too quickly. Bertozzi polenta is everything you want in a polenta: rich, forgiving to cook, unctuous and slow to set. Also, the other holy grail of my quest to little Italy, as always, is the jarred chillies of Puglia. Bottled by a small family-owned company called Donata Machina, these fiery hot chillies, packed in crimson-stained salty sunflower oil, are about the best tasting thing on earth. Bar none. Also, I can't forget the fact that despite all their fancy 'PC' brand imports, double zero flour simply cannot be found in Loblaws. Though by all means not imperative, in order to make any kind of authentic pasta or pizza this particular flour formulation is ideal.  In fact, I have only ever found it in Little Italy. Along with proper anchovies, good capers and the best dried pasta money can buy, you can't get your Italian fix without using these most authentic of ingredients.

Little Italy is just one part of the equation. Kensington market is where I headed to get a whole other collection of treasures such as blood pudding. Unlike the British version that I have been buying locally, Sanagan's Meat Locker in Kensington market sells a continental version of the black pud. This is why I am referring to it in the title as boudin noir, which is likely a better suited name for this rich, soul nourishing charcuterie. Peter Sanagan's wondrous shop also supplies me with King Capon farm hens, about the best value bird in the city, followed by their Perth farm thick cut bacon. I usually pick up a treat when I visit and this time I opted for a grass fed, bone on, rib steak. Pure heaven. I don't know what I would do without good butchers. Lastly, another of my favourite stores in the market is the House of Spice. This tiny store resembles something one might find in a shanty town, but where else in the city can you get a two pound bag of proper lentilles du puy for four bucks? They have three kinds of smoked Spanish pimenton, a plethora of house made curry mixes and it's pretty much the only place I've ever found that sells smoked Maldon salt. I could go on about New Seaway fish, or Cheese Magic, or the 4Health green grocer (the best green grocer in the city), but I would like to return to the subject of this post, and that is my rather fussy looking breakfast.

The polenta from the night before was poured out into a shallow pan immediately after cooking to a depth of about an inch and a half. This went into the fridge to set over night. The next day, I simply sliced large triangles from the polenta. Than I got some boudin noir in a pan, crumbled it out of its skin and fried it in a bit of butter until crispy. Then I grilled the polenta in an oiled grill pan until slightly charred on the outside and meltingly soft and creamy on the inside. The plate was assembled by scattering the crumbled boudin noir atop the polenta wedges with some of the aforementioned Pulgiese chilies and it's beautifully pungent red oil. My preference would have been to finish the dish with fresh basil. I love the way its peppery, fragrant leaves stand up to the fiery hot chillies. However, I did not have basil. Some fresh tarragon was lurking in the fridge, so I garnished with that instead. It was okay, but not as assertive as the basil, so in the end it brought freshness and colour but did little to stand up to the heat of the chillies by way of flavour. All in all however, the contrasting flavours and textures from creamy to spicy to meaty made this a perfectly balanced little breakfast. I think it would make more sense as an appetizer for an Italian feast, but hey, breakfast is the most important meal of the day right?

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