Polenta makes me feel like an asshole, but I can’t stop making it. Like the way that Giada over pronounces Italian words and Midwestern transplants start using phrases like “taking holiday” once they move to Beverly Hills, it feels disingenuous. Polenta is corn grits, I live in America. I pronounce croissant and mascarpone in a way that would make Europeans cringe but it’s authentic to my California upbringing. Shouldn’t I call it grits? But I can’t. I learned how to make this bowl of creamy comfort from the back of box labeled “dry polenta” and I’m sticking with it.
Although if we really want to dissect it, I’ve trashed up this corn meal in such a way that neither the Italian or the American South would want to claim it. Beer isn’t in any recipe that any Alabama or Sicilian grandma would approve, but maybe I don’t care as much as I should. Tradition is fine for holidays and sporting events but food is meant for evolution or we would all still be putting pineapple rings on canned ham.
As a culinary man without a country, I should just make up my own term. I can let Italy and the South off the hook and just call it something entirely different. Or I can just have a beer and forget about the whole thing.
Beer Pesto Chicken with Creamy Parmesan Pale Ale Polenta
For the pesto:
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed
- ½ cup chopped pecans
- ½ cup grated parmesan
- 3 cups fresh basil leaves
- 1 tsp salt
- ¼ cup pale ale
- 1/3 cup olive oil
For the Polenta:
- 4 tbs butter
- 1 cup pale ale
- 2 cups whole milk
- ¾ cup polenta (also called corn grits or coarse ground corn meal)
- 3/4 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
For the Chicken:
- 1 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp onion powder
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 1 tbs olive oil
Make the Pesto:
- In a food processor add the garlic, pecans, parmesan, basil, and salt, process until smooth. While the processor is running, slowly add the beer and olive oil. Pesto can be made up to three days ahead of time.
Make the polenta:
- In a pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the beer and milk, bring to a simmer.
- Whisk in the polenta. Simmer until polenta is tender and thickened, whisking occasionally, about 18 minutes.
- Stir in the parmesan, salt and pepper.
Make the chicken.
- Sprinkle the chicken on all sides with salt, garlic powder, onion powder and pepper.
- Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium high heat until hot but not smoking.
- Add the chicken, cooking on both sides until browned and chicken is cooked through.
- Plate polenta, then the chicken, top with pesto.
If substituting chicken breast, filet the chicken breasts into two thin slices, rather than a thicker breasts. Season well before cooking, don't over cook, chicken breasts dry out easily.
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