writer, gardener, cook Teresa Lust
Stew and Polenta From Pass the Polenta (serves 4-6) FOR THE STEW: 2 pounds chuck roast or other stewing meat, trimmed and cut into chunks flour, for dredging 2-3 tablespoons oil or rendered fat from the meat 1 large onion, cut into thick crescents 4-5 small cloves garlic, peeled and slivered 1 bay leaf 1 good pinch each of oregano, thyme, and rosemary 1 glass of red wine 16-ounce jar of canned tomatoes, roughly cut, including their liquid 2-3 stalks of celery, including their leaves, sliced 2 carrots, peeled and sliced Quartered mushroom, 1 cup or so, optional 1 turnip, peeled and sliced, optional Salt and pepper to taste Dredge the pieces of meat in flour. Heat the oil or fat in a heavy stewpot. Add the meat and cook over medium heat until the pieces are browned on all sides. Stir in the onion, garlic, bay leaf, and herbs, and continue cooking until the onion is translucent. Add the wine and tomatoes, and let the stew simmer slowly covered, for about two hours. Check the pot occasionally and add water if the liquid has evaporated. Toward the end of the cooking time, stir in the remaining vegetables and continue braising gently until the vegetables are tender. Season with salt and pepper. Can be made ahead and reheated. FOR THE POLENTA 1 cup polenta (coarsely ground cornmeal) 4 cups cold water (You can substitute 1 cup stock or milk for part of the water.) Salt and pepper A few handfuls freshly grated Parmesan cheese 1 Tablespoon butter Stir water, polenta, and 1 teaspoon salt together in a heavy saucepan. Place over a low flame and stir slowly with a wooden spoon, scraping the bottom and sides of the pot to keep the polenta from sticking. Cook until the mixture thickens and pulls cleanly away from the sides of the pot, and the cornmeal feels tender on the tongue, 30-40 minutes. Stir in the cheese and butter. Add freshly ground pepper and more salt, if needed, to taste. TO ASSEMBLE AND SERVE AT TABLE Put thin slices of fresh mozzarella, provolone, and Gorgonzola cheese on a serving plate—8 ounces, total, is ample. Gruyere, fontina, or Roquefort work well in this dish too. Place the cheese plate on the table, along with the pot of stew and the dish of polenta. Diners serve themselves by spooning a mound of polenta onto their plate, followed by slices of the assorted cheeses and spoonsful of stew.

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