Each Monday night Vance and I spend the evening with a quirky community of believers in one of our homes here in the city; I call it a house church, some call it a "LIFE" community. Whatever the name, we start each evening off with some good eats.
Tonight's main dish was a taco salad, brought by another group member, and this hearty side ended up being the perfect wingman. It's a crisp polenta cake with a smoky chipotle salsa draped over the top — crunchy and warm with as much kick as you like. And it was a great excuse to feature the local corn we'd picked up from the co-op last week.
This one takes a bit of careful planning, as the polenta needs to set in the refrigerator for a couple of hours, but it's a definite crowd-pleaser that would appeal to a wide range of tastes.
Fried Polenta Cakes with Chipotle Corn Salsa
Fried polenta adapted from Giada De Laurentiis's Fried Polenta Cakes. Nobody but myself to blame for the salsa. :)
- 6 cups water
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 ¾ cups yellow cornmeal
- 3 tablespoons unsalted organic butter
- 2 cups olive oil, for frying
- ½ a 7 ounce can of Chipotle peppers in adobo
- 1 barely ripe organic tomato, cut into small dice
- 4 tablespoons finely diced red onion
- 2 ears of corn, husks removed
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- (optional) Your favorite smoked salt
- (optional) Sour cream
Start this about 2 ½ hours ahead of time. Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a large, heavy saucepan. Add 2 teaspoons of salt. Gradually whisk in the cornmeal. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the mixture thickens and the cornmeal is tender, stirring often, about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat. Add the butter and smoked paprika, and stir until melted.
Lightly oil an 11 by 7-inch baking dish. Transfer the hot polenta to the prepared dish, spreading evenly to ½ inch thick. Refrigerate until cold and firm, about 2 hours.
Brush two ears of corn with the 3 tbsp of olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Place the corn on the grill over high heat (you could also do this in a cast iron grill pan in the kitchen if you prefer). Baste with the olive oil and turn occasionally until nice grill marks develop (about 10 minutes). Cut the kernels from the cob and transfer to a small bowl.
Load half of the 7 oz can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce into a small food processor. Pulse until finely minced, scraping down sides as needed. Add about half of the minced peppers to the bowl with the corn (reserve the rest to adjust the heat to your taste).
Add the diced red onion and tomato, and a pinch of smoked salt (sea salt would be just as nice) to the bowl with the corn; stir. Taste and add more of the minced chipotle as needed, to taste. Refrigerate or set aside until ready to use.
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.
Cut the polenta into 2 by 1-inch pieces. Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, fry the polenta pieces until golden brown on all sides, about 3 minutes per side. (Jamie note: use a splatter screen here if you'd prefer to hang onto the hair on your arms).
Using tongs, transfer the polenta pieces to paper towels and drain. Place the polenta pieces on a baking sheet and keep warm in the oven while cooking the remaining batches.
Transfer the polenta pieces to a large serving platter in a single layer. Spoon about a teaspoon of sour cream on each piece, if using. Top each piece with a spoonful of the salsa and dig in.