Casa Mia

Casa Mia

Thursday, October 27, 2011

How about polenta or soup to warm up the kids this Halloween night?

Fall is here - the official kick-off of long sleeved shirts, apple pies, fires in the fireplace, pumpkin spice lattes, afghans, stews and soups. As kids, mom insisted that our Halloween night meal be something to keep us warm on our trick or treating trek so the menu usually consisted of a dish meant to stick to our ribs like polenta with a pork tomato sauce or a hearty beef soup. Even my sister who was not a polenta fan managed to fill herself up enough to brace the cold and satisfy mom enough to permit her to celebrate with the donuts and cider that became an after trick or treating tradition. (Not to mention the loot she collected!)

Anyone who is reading this and knows me, will of course assume that I repeated the Halloween tradition with my own kids. I too have one child who loves polenta and another who does not so I've switched it up between polenta and beef soup every year, even as my kids became adults. With an almost 2 year old grandson preparing for his first trick or treat adventure, Halloween festivities will begin early at my house on Monday and this year, I'll  introduce him to polenta. I'm not sure if any of you will be interested in trying this one out yourselves, but I'm providing the details anyway plus the recipe for beef soup, which just may go over a bit better.

Happy Halloween!

1 lb. sweet Italian sausage
1 lb. hot Italian sausage (optional)
Rack of pork spareribs, cut
2 34oz cans of Italian peeled tomatoes
olive oil
1 clove garlic
oregano & basil
1 container of Quaker yellow corn meal

To make the sauce:
  1. In a large dutch oven, brown garlic in 2T. olive oil. Add the sausage and spareribs in batches to fill the bottom of the pot but do not overlap. Sprinkle with oregano and brown meat on all sides; remove from the pot and reserve. Drain excess fat from the pot.
  2. Puree the tomatoes in a food mill. Add the meat to the pot, the pureed tomatoes, basil and pinch of salt. Bring to a boil on medium-high heat, reduce heat and simmer until thickened and meat is tender, stirring frequently.
  3. Sauce can be made in advance and reheated when making the polenta. Remove meat from the sauce using a slotted spoon, shaking off excess. Serve the meat with the polenta.
To make the polenta:
  1. Bring a large stockpot filled with cold water to a rolling boil. Add salt to taste.
  2. Using a wooden spoon to stir, slowly sprinkle in some of the polenta. Stop and stir to remove lumps. Repeat the procedure until all the corn meal is used noting that the more corn meal that is added, the thicker it becomes and the harder it is to stir. Alternate between a spoon and whisk to work the corn meal into the appropriate consistency.
  3. Tip: It is advantageous to use 2 people to make polenta as it thickens. One person can sprinkle in the corn meal while the other stirs.
  4. When all corn meal has been added, the polenta should be cooked uncovered for 5-10 minutes, using a whisk to smooth out the consistency. The polenta should resemble a thick porridge.
  5. To serve, ladle the polenta into a flat dish and top with sauce and grated locatelli (or parmiggiano) cheese. Eat from around the edges of the plate into the middle. 
Beef Soup
6 beef short ribs
3 carrots sliced on an angle
2 ribs of celery sliced on an angle
1 yellow onion
bay leaf
salt & pepper
1 large can Delmonte tomato sauce
acini de pepe pastina

  1. In a large stockpot, add short ribs, whole onion, sliced carrots and celery, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Fill the pot with water about 3/4 full.
  2. Bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, stir in Delmonte sauce and cover. Cook for 3-4 hours. Taste for seasonings and add more salt if desired.
  3. Remove onion and beef. (Remove the beef from the bone, shred and add to the soup or reserve for other use. My husband makes a beef salad with vinegar and oil to serve as a second course.)
  4. In a separate pot of salted water, cook the acini de pepe. If the stockpot is large, cook 1 lb. of pasta; for smaller stockpots, use 1/2 lb. (I cook the pasta in the soup.)
  5. Add the acini de pepe to the soup and serve. Top with parmiggiano cheese.