Thanksgiving Dinner: The side

I know what you’re thinking. That doesn’t look like dressing and you’d be right. I was going for a non-traditional dressing-like dressing and this is what I came up with. Looks good, no? Let me tell you, it tastes better than it looks, seriously. I don’t know that I would call this a deconstructed dressing, but it does have all the elements of a dressing presented individually.

In Panama we eat corn tortillas for breakfast, they’re usually served with some sort of saucy protein. As you can see, our tortillas are different from what most people think of when they hear the word.  Ours are made with yellow corn, not white and they’re thick, about 1/2-inch. These discs are then deep-fried until crisp on the outside while they remain nice and creamy inside.

So, with that idea in mind, I set off looking for  a way to imitate my tortillas, but I didn’t want to find dry corn, cook it, grind it, shape it, etcetera, etcetera. Instead, I used polenta that I cooked in about 6 minutes then cooled and cut into discs. Frying them just before serving, provided a much needed textural contrast. Beware, polenta is feisty when being fried, because of the water content, it is very spitty!

For the topping my mind went straight to picadillo, the kind we make in Panama with olives and raisins. Instead of ground beef, I went for a traditional Thanksgiving ingredient: breakfast sausage. And I cooked fatty bacon to a crisp to have a similar texture to chicharrón. And, just like that, Polenta Tortillas with Sausage & Chicharrón Picadillo was born!

Polenta Tortillas with Sausage & Chicharrón Picadillo
serves 8-10

For the Polenta Tortillas:
5-6 cps water
1-1/2 cps dry polenta or coarse cornmeal
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp butter
1 ear of corn, shucked
1/2 cp queso fresco, shredded
Extra virgin olive oil for the pan and frying

Grease a 9×13 pan with olive oil and set aside. Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan, add the salt then whisk in the polenta. You’ll want to whisk briskly until the grounds have incorporated. You will continue to cook it over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes or so, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Turn off the heat and stir in the butter, corn and cheese.

Pour the polenta into the prepared pan and spread it out evenly. Allow it to cool and set. You can make this ahead of time. When ready to serve, unmold the polenta and cut into squares or with a round biscuit cutter or a glass.

Heat some butter and oil in a frying pan, and fry the polenta disks until golden brown on each side. Set on paper towels to catch the excess fat. Set aside and keep warm until ready to serve.

For the Sausage & Chicharrón Picadillo:
1 cp fatty bacon, diced
1 cp breakfast sausage (about 1/2 of a Jimmy Dean package)
1 cp red onion, diced
1/2 cp carrots, diced
3 green onions, finely chopped
1/4 cp Italian parsley, finely chopped
1/2 cp ripe tomato, finely chopped
2 tbsps ketchup
1/4 cp green olives, finely chopped
1/2 cp seedless raisins

Cook the bacon until golden and crisp, remove from the pan and pour out the excess fat, reserve. In the same pan, crumble the sausage and cook for a few minutes until it isn’t red anymore.

Add the red onion and carrots and cook until the onions have softened, then add the tomato, green onions, parsley, olives and ketchup, stir all the ingredients and allow them to cook for about 5 minutes. Add the raisins and also about 1/4 cp of water, stir and allow to simmer covered for another 5 minutes or so. Keep warm.

To assemble the dish: place the fried polenta at the bottom, top with 1 tablespoon of picadillo, and top that with a bit of the bacon chicharron.

For the rest of this meal, follow the link and visit the photostream for all the shots.

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris

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