Where land meets sea on your tongue recipe for apple streusel pie

Polenta’s humble origins lay in basic, savory gruel for the poorer classes. Good fortune in hunting or foraging could supply ingredients for a juicy, substantial ragù to ladle on top. But even today, there’s nothing better than a bowl of plain polenta with a dab of good butter or olive oil, salt and pepper, and a handful of grated parmesan.

Modern italian cooks follow suit, topping polenta with sausages simmered in tomato sauce, a mushroom stew or braised rabbit. And the custom still exists, for those remembering or imagining village life, of pouring a pot of steaming polenta on a large board, spooning a saucy concoction over it, and placing it on the table for communal consumption and distributing spoons instead of plates. It’s a wonderful way to serve a casual festive meal.

The other night, with polenta on the brain and with a pound of fresh wild gulf shrimp from the fishmonger, I made an impromptu dinner.


I channeled, sort of, the southern american favorite, shrimp and grits, and set my polenta to boil.Cook stirring

A word of warning, though: for the best results, polenta needs a good 45 minutes to an hour on the stove. Recipes that counsel any less do cooks a disservice. The cornmeal needs time to swell, absorb liquid and develop the corn’s sweetness. Undercooked polenta tastes bitter.

While the polenta cooked, I peeled the shrimp and gathered the other ingredients for a spicy stew: a few hot italian fennel sausages, an onion, some tomato purée and a splash of wine. The stew itself takes only about 15 minutes to cook.

There, on a large platter, was a golden mound of polenta, surrounded by a full-flavored, aromatic, saucy partnership of land and sea. I quickly chopped up some scallions, parsley, capers and lemon zest to sprinkle over everything.

1. Make the polenta: bring 8 cups salted water to a boil in a heavy-bottomed pot over high heat. Whisk in polenta, continuing to whisk as mixture begins to thicken, about 1 minute. Turn heat to low and let polenta cook slowly, whisking every few minutes for about 10 minutes.Salt pepper turn heat to very low and continue to cook for least 45 to 60 minutes, stirring occasionally. If polenta gets too thick to stir easily, add a bit of water to obtain a porridge-like consistency. (when finished, there should be no raw cornmeal flavor.) taste a cooled spoonful, then correct seasoning with salt and pepper. Turn off heat, whisk in butter and keep warm.

2. Meanwhile, prepare the topping: heat olive oil in a large, wide skillet over medium-high heat. When oil shimmers, add shrimp in one layer and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 1 minute, until lightly browned. Using tongs, turn shrimp over, season and cook for 30 seconds more. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. (shrimp will not be fully cooked.)

3. Add onion to pan and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add sausage meat and cook, mashing with a large spoon to let sausage crumble into rough half-inch pieces. Continue cooking for 5 to 6 minutes, until mixture is lightly browned.Salt pepper stir in garlic, red-pepper flakes and rosemary, and cook for 1 minute more.

4. Add wine and tomato purée. Simmer for 1 minute and stir in crème fraîche. Turn off heat and check seasoning. Warm a large serving platter. In a small bowl, mix together scallions, capers, parsley and lemon zest.

5. To finish, turn heat to high. Add reserved shrimp to sausage mixture and cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes, until shrimp are cooked through and sauce has thickened slightly.

6. Mound polenta into middle of platter. Spoon shrimp and sauce around polenta. Sprinkle with scallion mixture and serve. (alternatively, place a large spoonful of polenta into individual plates or soup bowls and top with shrimp and sauce.)

Often when a dish includes tomato sauce, the inclination is to pick a red. But whites can go especially well, particularly with fresh tomato sauces and one like this, which incorporates seafood and the spicy heat of hot fennel sausage.Salt pepper I would look for wines that combine a lively acidity with a richer texture. Good soaves come to mind, as does a rare white from the piedmont region of italy made of timorasso, a grape that might have disappeared had a few determined growers not resurrected it. Other options include ribolla gialla from friuli-venezia giulia and fiano from campania. You might also consider some of the so-called orange wines, whites made almost like red wines, macerated with their skins, which gives them an amber tinge and a tannic rasp. — ERIC ASIMOV