This dish is nothing short of a revelation. Much like the first time I made my own pâte feuilletée at Le Cordon Bleu and became a forever spoiled puff pastry snob, having made this polenta from fresh corn, I am seriously questioning whether I can ever make one from dried cornmeal again.
Bold words, I know, but I defy any of you out there to make this and not have the same thought run through your head. Yeah, it's that good.
This is another brilliant recipe from the London chef Yotam Ottolenghi, and as luck would have it was shared recently as a "Genius" recipe by my friends over at Food52, and can also be found in Ottolenghi's award winning cookbook, Plenty: Vibrant Recipes from London's Ottolenghi . I read the Food52 piece just hours before retrieving my weekly CSA share that included eggplant, tomatoes and corn, and the rest as they say, was history.
What makes this polenta in this dish so much better than the more traditional variety made with dried cornmeal? Uh….just about everything. The color, the texture, the freshness, the taste….you name it and this version surpasses the other with flying colors. One thing I noticed in particular that really sold me on this recipe was this polenta's ability to remain creamy and loose even as it cooled on the plate. I don't know about you, but traditional polenta's tendency to firm and congeal as it cools on the plate has always left me on the verge of a good gag. I love it smooth, creamy and hot from the stove; and I love it cooled, cut and grilled as well. What I don't love is that in-between stage where it starts to clump together and turn somewhat gelatinous after only 5 minutes on the plate…..call me crazy, but there you have it.
The fresh corn in this dish also lends a sweetness that a dried polenta can't match. Ottolenghi plays off of that by adding feta to the mix that not only introduces a salty note, but also helps the fresh veggies to achieve a creaminess reminiscent of a traditional polenta. As if this corn packed wonder were not enough, his simple sauce of tomatoes, eggplant and fresh oregano transform this dish into a fully satisfying vegetarian meal. If you must, serve it as a side dish with your favorite meat, but it is so good on it's own it almost seems a shame to relegate this plate to a supporting role.
Let it be the star of your table, you won't be disappointed.
Cheers – Steve
Sweet Corn Polenta with Eggplant Sauce
- 2/3 cups vegetable oil
- 1 medium eggplant, cut into 3/4 inch dice
- 2 teaspoons tomato paste
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup chopped peeled tomatoes, fresh or canned
- 6 1/2 tablespoons water
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon chopped oregano
- 6 ears of corn
- 2 1/4 cups of water
- 3 tablespoons butter, diced
- 7 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
for the eggplant sauce:
- Heat the oil in a large skillet and fry the eggplant on medium heat for about 15 minutes, or until nicely brown. Drain off as much oil as possible and discard it.
- Add the tomato paste to the pan and stir with the eggplant. Cook for 2 minutes, then add the wine and cook for 1 minute. Add the chopped tomatoes, water, salt, sugar, and oregano and cook for a further 5 minutes to get a deep flavored sauce. Set aside; warm it up as needed.
for the polenta:
- Remove the husk and silk from each ear of corn, then chop off the pointed top and stalk. Use a sharp knife to shave off the kernels - either stand each ear upright on its base and shave downward, or lay each ear on its side on a cutting board to slice off the kernels.
- Place the kernels in a medium saucepan and cover them with the water. Cook for 12 minutes on a low simmer. Use a slotted spoon to lift the kernels from the water and into a food processor; reserve the cooking liquid in a large pyrex measuring cup.
- Process them for quite a few minutes, to break as much of the kernel case as possible. Add some of the cooking liquid if the mixture becomes too dry to process.
- Now return the corn paste to the pan and add back about half of the cooking liquid and cook, while stirring on low heat for 10-15 minutes, or until the mixture thicken to mashed potato consistency. Add back more of the cooking liquid during this phase if you prefer a looser texture.
- Fold the butter, the feta, salt and some pepper and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.