Wednesday, January 12, 2011

4) Chicken and Polenta (The Gritty Streets of Moraga)

I) Woke up this morning. Hungry. Stumbled out of my room and to the kitchen. Bust open the fridge, my thought process: “Okay I got that chicken breast, some leftover thyme, that sounds good. Last zucchini, gotta use that. Half a red onion. Some butter. Need a carb, polenta would work here.” And, that is how this dish came to be. It’s really just a way to use leftover vegetables and meat and extend it with the polenta, making everything seem fresh by liberal use of herbs and lemon. Science Applications: The corn meal granules will become saturated by the milk as it cooks, absorbing all four cups of milk into the one cup of cornmeal. Both conduction and convection are being used since the ingredients both come in contact with the pan, and are cooked in a liquid (in this case either oil or milk).

II) Chicken Breast with Thyme and Lemon, Lemon Polenta, and Sauteed Zucchini


For the Chicken:

· 2 boneless skinless chicken breast, butterflied

· Zest of 2 lemons

· Lemon thyme (can substitute thyme, oregano, or any other herb really)

· Salt and pepper

For the Polenta:

· 1 cup coarse corn meal

· 4 cups milk

· Lemon juice to taste (I used about 4 lemons, but they were sweet lemons)

· 3 Tablespoons butter

· Salt and pepper

For Zucchini:

· 1 large zucchini (or 2 small ones) cut into batons

· Half a large red onion

· Salt and pepper


I) Heat the milk until simmering (do this gently, or you’ll scorch the milk). Once hot, slowly whisk in the cornmeal. Allow to cook on low heat, whisking often, until the polenta is thick, this should take 25 minutes. The polenta should be smooth in the mouth, without much grittiness. Once cooked season with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Whisk in the butter.

II) Heat a pan on high for the chicken. Cover the chicken in salt, pepper, thyme, and lemon zest. Add a thin layer of oil to the pan and sauté the chicken until cooked through. Work in batches so you don’t overcrowd the pan (overcrowding the pan will make the chicken steam rather than sauté, since water boils at 212 F, which is about 150 degrees short of achieving Maillard reactions. The Maillard reaction is what browns meat, giving it a rich umami flavor.). Set chicken aside to rest.

III) Heat a pan and add a thin layer of oil. Sauté the onions until light brown. Add the zucchini and cook. The cooked zucchini should be soft but with some texture left. Don’t overcook.

IV) To plate ladle the polenta on the bottom. Place the vegetables off to the side, but still slightly on the polenta. And top the whole thing with a piece of chicken. Serves 4.

III) Results and Discussion

Overall a success. The polenta soaked up a little more than four cups of milk, so I just added more as a saw fit (not exactly sure how much, just add it as you see fit). The lemon really helps to make this whole dish feel light, even though the polenta is very creamy. Polenta looks fancy, but is really simple to make. Next time I’d like to make extra polenta and use it to make polenta cakes.

IV) Sources:

a. Keller, Thomas, Dave Cruz, Susie Heller, Michael Ruhlman, and Amy Vogler. Ad Hoc at Home. New York: Artisan, 2009. 27. Print.

b. The back of the Cornmeal container and Alton Brown.

V) Pictures!

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