Cheesy Polenta

Polenta is a Northern Italian dish. The main ingredient is corn meal. It doesn’t matter if it is fine or course.  Before American corn was brought over to Europe, they used Barley.

A great read is found at How to Make Polenta – The real rules

At Chefsville, there are times we want to introduce people to new concepts using basic cooking techniques. This is one of those recipes because polenta is a great platform and offers the cook a great opportunity for creative variations.

This simple recipe has been done by thousands of kids in the DFW area, and almost everyone loved it. This is also a great recipe if kids have texture acceptance problems. By focusing on the taste we have found that kids begin to become familiar and less sensitive to the texture.

Polenta can be put into a mold (circular or rectangular) and then cooled. Once cooled, cut into your favorite shapes. Then pan fry using a non-stick skillet and some olive oil until polenta pieces are brown. Turn over and cook the other side until brown.

Top with your favorite tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese. Be creative. Polenta, either soft or fried or baked (400 degree F – 30 minutes) will be a delight. Top with your favorite stew or sloppy joe or sweet-n-sour meatballs or baked vegetables. I’m getting hungry. This warm and comforting dish will become one of your family favorites.

Cheesy Polenta

  • 6 cups water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt (plus extra for seasoning)
  • 1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal or polenta
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Cheddar Cheese
  • 1 cup whole milk (at room temperature)
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (at room temperature, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, 1 stick)
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or chives or thyme
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  1. Bring the water to a boil in a large, heavy pot.
  2. Add the salt. Gradually whisk in the cornmeal.
  3. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring often, until the mixture thickens and the cornmeal is tender, 12 to 17 minutes.
  4. Remove the pot from the heat.
  5. Add the cheese, milk, butter, and parsley.
  6. Stir until the butter and cheese have melted.
  7. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  8. Transfer the polenta to a bowl and serve.

Tools Necessary-

  • Medium sized pot
  • Measuring Cups
  • Serving Bowl
  • Wooden Spoon or spatula
  • Whisk
Main Dish, Side
Italian, Vegetarian

Mac N Cheese with Bacon

Mac & Cheese with Bacon

Mac & Cheese with Bacon

Our 4th president, Thomas Jefferson invented Mac N Cheese. He made a pasta extruder that helped make macaroni. Back then, in the 1700s, macaroni was long and flat. So you would get only 6 per serving.

Every-time I celebrate Thomas Jefferson, I eat a version of Mac N Cheese. This one has bacon to really perk it up. If your family eats bacon, then this is a great recipe for you.

  • 2 tablespoons butter (unsalted)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 slices bacon (diced)
  • 1/2 pound pasta (any shape that is fun)
  • 1/2 white onion (diced)
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 garlic clove (chopped)
  • 1 quart whole milk (scalded)
  • 1 cup white bread crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 8 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar (shredded (2 cups))
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Heat the butter and 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large (12-inch) sauté pan, add the mushrooms, and cook over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes, until they are tender. Set aside.
  3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a splash of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Add the pasta and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until al dente. Drain well.
  4. Meanwhile, melt the 2 tablespoons butter in a large (4-quart) saucepan and whisk in the flour. Cook for 2 minutes over low heat, stirring constantly with a whisk. Slowly whisk in the hot milk and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the white sauce is thickened and creamy. Off the heat, add the Gruyere, Cheddar, 1 1/2 tablespoons salt, the pepper, and nutmeg.
  5. Combine the pasta, sauce, and mushrooms in a large bowl and pour them into a 10 by 13 by 2-inch baking dish.
  6. Place the garlic and parsley in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse until they’re minced. Add the bread crumbs and pulse to combine. Sprinkle the crumbs over the pasta and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the sauce is bubbly and the crumbs are golden brown. Serve hot.

Equipment Necessary-
2 Pots
Cutting Board
Chef’s Knife
Box Grater
Wooden Spoon
Adult Supervision

Main Dish, Side

Baked Chicken with Orange Apricot Glaze

Baked Chicken with Toasted Spices and Orange-Apricot Glaze

Baked Chicken with Toasted Spices and Orange-Apricot Glaze

Kids love dipping chicken pieces in sauce. Adults love grilled meats, pork, fish and poultry. Having the combination together makes for exciting dishes.

All over the world, glazed poultry can be found. There is the maple glaze, whiskey glaze, honey mustard, honey soy, lime soy, orange glazed, etc… The list can be as long as a few pages of print.

This recipe takes the glaze further by using toasted spices, baking technique, and adding a curry mayonnaise drizzle.

Apricots are a completely under-utilized fruit. While the demand for fresh apricots is growing, this dish celebrates the integration of this ingredient with poultry, spices and orange.

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 bunch scallions (trimmed and minced)
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 skinless chicken breast fillets skin removed (organic preferred

Curried Mustard Mayo:

  • 1 teaspoons canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
  • 1 teaspoon sweet curry powder
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons honey Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro leaves
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Orange-Apricot Glaze

  • 4 tablespoons apricot preserves (chopped)
  • 1 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 C orange juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • canola oil
  • 3 cups really fresh (crisp watercress leaves)
  • Cilantro and watercress sprigs for garnish (optional)
  1. Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with foil or use a silicon mat.  Using a silicon mat means you can cook with less fat.
  2. Use a small sauté pan, heat over medium heat for 2 minutes, then add coriander and cumin seeds and toast the spices moving them in the pan for 2 minutes or until fragrant and lightly browned. Remove from pan, cool and grind (use a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder.
  3. Place ground spices in a large bowl; add cilantro, scallions, kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper; mix well. Cover each chicken breast with this mixture and refrigerate for one hour.

Curried Mustard Mayo:

  1. Using the same sauté pan that spices were toasted in, add and heat canola oil over medium heat. Add ginger and garlic and sauté for 2 minutes. Stir in curry powder and continue to sauté for 1 minute. Remove mixture to a mini food processor; reserve pan. Add mayonnaise and mustard to processor and puree. Remove to a small bowl, stir in cilantro and season, to taste, with sea salt and pepper. Refrigerate until needed.

Orange-Apricot Glaze:

  1. Place preserves, butter, orange juice and cayenne in reserved saucepan and cook over medium heat,
  2. stirring, until preserves and butter have melted. Boil glaze for 4 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
  3. Bake Chicken at 400 degrees F for 4 minutes or broil for 2 minutes. Brush Chicken with half of the glaze; cook for 1 minute. Flip Chicken, brush with remaining glaze; Cook for 1 additional minute. Remove from heat.
  4. Place the Chicken on top of the watercress leaves and top with 1 teaspoon of mayonnaise mixture;
  5. Garnish platter or dinner plates with cilantro and watercress sprigs, as desired.

Tools Necessary- 

  • Baking Sheet
  • Silicon Mat
  • Measuring Cups
  • Measuring Spoons
  • Sauté Pan
  • Mortar & Pestle
  • Large Bowl
  • Small Bowl
  • Mini Food Processor
  • Pastry Brush
Main Dish, Poultry and Eggs