Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Home Style Away from Home

We cook at home. Even when home is a vacation cottage or a hotel room. In my usual kitchen I have all my spices, my herbs (and my garden), my pantry, my knives -- everything I need, just where I can find it. Away from my home kitchen, dinner takes a lot more thought. I try to just buy the ingredients I need (no bottles and jars to cart home or waste), use the minimum of pots and pans (hotel selections are usually pretty limited) and get maximum flavor with minimal effort (everyone needs a little vacation). It's a dinner time puzzle waiting to be solved.
This simple sauté is perfect for any location.
I bought about a cup of polenta from the bulk food section of the local grocery store -- bulk foods are great for gathering little bits of grains, flours, nuts, pastas . . . whatever ingredients you might need -- a carton of chicken broth (that's 4 cups just about right for a cup of polenta), some pre-shredded parmesan from the deli section, 2 hot Italian sausages, one head of garlic and a bunch of broccoli rabe -- James' favorite. Farmer's markets are also a great place to only by the vegetables you need that day.
First I brought a saucepan of salted water to a boil and blanched the broccoli florets. I drained the broccoli and set it aside and used the same saucepan to bring the chicken broth to a boil. I stirred in the polenta and allowed the pan to simmer (stirring every now and then -- I don't stir constantly as most recipes dictate) for about 30 minutes until the polenta was cooked and smooth.
Meanwhile I splashed a bit of olive oil in a frying pan, removed the sausage from the casings and added it, along with thinly sliced garlic, to the oil already over medium heat.
To finish the polenta I stirred in butter, shredded parmesan cheese, a bit of butter (you can usually "borrow" that from a hotel breakfast), S&P, and a bit of fruity olive oil (some things are always worth the splurge at home or away). When the sausage was browned and cooked through I added the broccoli to the pan and tossed it around until heated through and flavored with the spicy sausage ( a good way to forgo vacation bought spice racks).
Creamy polenta, crisp bitter broccoli, spicy sausage -- an easy meal that always feels like home.

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