Friday, November 28, 2008

November 23, 2008: Cornmeal Crunch

Though I revile them in their raw state, I love love love caramelised onions. They're all it took to have me bookmarking Heidi Swanson's cornmeal crunch recipe a couple of weeks ago, and to prepare it for Sunday lunch. Sweet melting onions aside, I'm unsure whether this turned out quite as Heidi intended. The U.S. seems to offer a wide variety of cornmeal - fine or coarse, steel or stone ground, yellow, white or even blue! Here all I readily see is polenta. Thankfully my polenta seemed to go through the textural changes that Heidi described in her recipe, so my rendition may be a worthy imitation.

I was pessimistic about this small amount of parmesan translating any cheesy flavour to the final dish, but it did fine; actually it was the onions that tended to disappear into the mix. Nevertheless the result is very pleasing indeed, especially with some baby spinach leaves and baked asparagus spears on the side. It's a little heavier than I expected, and I'll plan to add smaller chunks of it to a salad or soak up a soup with it next time. The only reason that 'next time' isn't tonight is that this recipe takes patience - get started well before your stomach's grumbling for service!

Cornmeal Crunch
(from 101 Cookbooks)

1 1/2 cups cornmeal/polenta
pinch of salt
3 medium onions, chopped
olive oil
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
3 cups water or vege stock (I added a vegetable stock cube to my water)

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C. Grease a baking or pie dish.

In a medium bowl, stir together the cornmeal, salt and 1 1/2 cups of water and set them aside.

Splash some olive oil into a frying pan on high heat, then add the onions. Stir occasionally to prevent the onions from sticking to the bottom - you'll need to stir increasingly often as they brown. Continue until they're collapsing into a sweet mush, this took me at least 10 minutes, and probably 20. Take them off the heat when they're done.

Pour 1 1/2 cups of water into a saucepan and bring it to the boil (this is when I added my stock cube). Add the cornmeal mush, bring it back up to the boil, and stir regularly for about 5 minutes. Heidi says that you want a texture 'thicker than a heavy frosting'. Take it off the heat when it's ready, and stir in the cheese and two thirds of the onions. Pour the cornmeal into your baking dish, smoothing over the top, a drizzle over a little more olive oil.

Bake the cornmeal until the edges are golden and they pull away from the side of the dish a bit. It'll take about 45 minutes. When it's done, slice it up and sprinkle it with the remaining onions.

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