…we all told the ghost stories to our tables as if we were actors on the stage.
Way back in the last century, I worked at a wonderful restaurant that was part of a little ghost town in southern Indiana. I started at the Story Inn as a baker, and went on to become the manager after working there about a year. Nestled deep in the hills of scenic Brown County, you had to WANT to go there, so remote was this tiny village turned into a bed-and-breakfast.
During the day we served home style country kitchen kinds of food – biscuits and gravy, the best pancakes anywhere, and sandwiches so tall you could barely eat them. The horse people from the nearby state park would take the trails into our little ghost town for lunch, hitching their rides just outside our big screened-in back porch. We closed at 2, and then transformed the dining room into a white tablecloth and crystal fine dining establishment. The waiters were encouraged to dress as though they were dining themselves at a fancy place in NYC, and we all told the ghost stories to our tables as if we were actors on the stage. We hosted many celebrities, engagements, parties, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. This was a great place to work!
One of the favorite dishes there through fall and winter months was a Polenta with Hunter Sauce. Even non-vegetarians would request this dish, the creamy polenta cut and grilled over a real fire, under a long and slow cooked brown sauce, usually full of mushrooms and that deep comforting flavor so common in French food. Many nights we would sell more of that dish than the steak, chicken or fish!
Polenta is good for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Or all three. In the same day. If you did it right!
I have tried many times to recreate that polenta. Polenta on the stove takes some time and attention, the cook getting splattered with the popping and glopping of the hot cornmeal. I have never been able to get it just right, the way I remember the chefs at the Story Inn doing it. Until now.
Enter the Instant Pot.
Now you can whisk the cornmeal and water together in the electric pressure cooker, lock and seal, and walk away. In just 9 minutes of actual cooking time, you have restaurant worthy polenta.
Ok, so, you have great polenta…what then? You can spoon some of the hot polenta in to a bowl, cover with some pecorino romano cheese and a little salt and pepper, and be totally lost in extreme comfort food. You can pour the hot polenta into a jelly roll pan, let it cool until it firms up, and then cut into triangles. Sear a couple of triangles in a hot buttered cast iron pan on the stove, and then cover with a favorite sauce. The sky is the limit, as the polenta can act as a blank canvas for almost any kind of culinary painting. Polenta is good for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Or all three. In the same day.
If you did it right!
Here are some ideas to get you started:
Our Quick and Carry Kitchen Live Facebook show tomorrow will feature polenta in the Instant Pot, and we will have step by step instruction on tomorrow’s blog post.