Creamy Polenta with Roasted Grapes and Chicken Sausage

Um.  I read somewhere recently that turtlenecks are “back.”  I never realized that they left.  That makes me and Steve Jobs…  Beatnik-on-top- Jerry-Seinfeld-on-the-bottom Steve Jobs.  Bless his heart.

Scarves and turtlenecks are essential as far as I’m concerned.  Some people feel claustrophobic this way; I feel complete.  A cold neck will not stand in my book.

If I were born 3 million years ago, I would’ve been the mother of the Turtle People Race.  I would have retreated my head into my shoulders and stayed that way.  I would have spawned many a neckless spawn (totally not how evolution works).  I would have been second in importance only to Lucy.  They probably would’ve named me Ethel for short.  Formal name: Australopithecus missingnecksis.

My vision for myself is so clear when I put myself into ridiculous scenarios.  Sigh.

Real life is a little different.

This recipe was one of the first things to jump out at me from this month’s Bon Appetit.  I suppose one might think the food magazine world between Christmas and Valentine’s day is an empty, boring void…  Not so.  It actually might be better–not all delicious things fall neatly into heart molds, or taste good with red and green sprinkles.  January means freedom, I say.

I thought you might like to see some sizzling, just-browned Italian chicken sausages.  It’s gratuitous, really, but I don’t think anyone minds.  They’re bursting with delicious.

This recipe is a bit controversial, you see. Primarily because of the grape stems.  Stemmageddon over there…  Don’t let that dissuade you.  If some light de-stemming work would detract from your dining experience, I would recommend taking most of the grapes off their stems, save for a couple little bunches for presentation purposes, if you’d like.  Many of them fall off, anyhow.

Roasted grapes are warm, juicy and the perfect sweet complement to sausage.

Polenta the traditional way takes some tending to (the stirring!  Oh, the STIRRING), but this microwave method is so, so shamelessly easy.

It’ll look something like this the first few times it goes for a round o’ zapping:

Before you know it, most of the liquid will be absorbed and the polenta will be soft and lovely.  You’ll add butter.  And now you know that I definitely, totally drink while cooking…  The glass isn’t just there for show.

Don’t drink ALL of your wine, of course; you’ll need some for a very basic sauce.    You’re cooking, remember?  Also, your loved ones might worry.

Skillet drippings/scrapings meet pinot gris.  It bubbles, it warms up, and that’s it–the finishing touch.

That’s all–easy.  Even Neckless Ethel could do it.  Enjoy!

Creamy Polenta with Roasted Grapes and Chicken Sausage
(recipe from Bon Appetit Jan. ’12

1 pound fresh Italian turkey or chicken sausages (I used Sicilian, from Trader Joe’s)
1/3 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
3 sprigs fresh thyme, divided
1 bag (roughly 1 lb) seedless red grapes (stemmed or left in bunches; really your preference)
1/2 cup medium-grind polenta (not instant; you may want to double up on the polenta if serving 4 or more)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
1/3 cup dry white wine (I used a delicious pinot gris from Oregon)
Fresh Italian parsley leaves, for garnish

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.  On the stovetop over medium-high heat, brown sausages until, well, browned and crisp on the outside, about 5 minutes.

Pour broth over sausages and add a couple thyme sprigs, the chopped shallots and the grapes.  Transfer to preheated oven and roast, turning over occasionally, until grapes start to caramelize and sausages are thoroughly cooked, 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, to make polenta, stir together the polenta, the remaining thyme sprig, salt and pepper to taste, and 2 1/2 cups water (5 cups water, if doubling polenta amount as noted above)  in a microwave-safe bowl. Cover with a plate and microwave on high for 4 minutes. Uncover the polenta carefully (steam hurts!) and whisk. Re-cover and microwave again for another 4 minutes, repeating the process until polenta is soft and most of the water is absorbed. Remove thyme and whisk in butter. Taste and season with more salt and pepper, if desired.

Spoon sausages and roasted grapes over the polenta in a platter or individual plates. Add wine to the skillet, and stir over high heat on the stovetop, scraping up browned bits, until bubbling and heated through. Drizzle pan sauce over, and finish with a sprinkle of parsley.

5 Responses to Creamy Polenta with Roasted Grapes and Chicken Sausage

  1. This looks utterly delicious — I keep seeing roasted grapes paired with chicken and, having never roasted a grape before, will have to try it soon. Do you find the taste of instant polenta wanting, or is it the consistency that’s different? I’m afraid I’ve also never been woman enough to try something other than the instant…

    • Thanks Annabelle! Actually, come to think of it, I’ve never used or had instant polenta, so I can’t be sure. I guess I never questioned whether the non-instant is REALLY better, and now I’m curious! If instant works for you, I say go for it.

  2. This was WONDERFUL. And I used plain ole Quaker Brand Grits (easy, easy). I’ve never made polenta before, but the grits worked wonderfully. LOOOVED the thyme IN the grits as well.

    • Hi Jym–I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed it! Grits and polenta are pretty much the same thing with different names. Corn is delicious no matter what we call it.

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