It’s amazing how much variety we have at our fingertips at our local grocery stores.
There are so many options and ingredients that you’d think no one could ever miss out on finding something they wanted, but as is sometimes the case, I hit a brick wall with this week’s recipe.
I’ve been eyeing this recipe for a pork ragu served over creamy polenta, but when I looked at our grocery store, the only polenta I could get was the pre-made kind that definitely isn’t creamy.
So I turned to the Internet to find a solution. Surely there had to be a locally available ingredient I could use to make creamy polenta.
Of course, someone had the solution: coarse grind cornmeal. And I figured out that Bob’s Red Mill makes just such a product, and it was available right here! The website I found claimed that you just used coarse grind cornmeal the same way you use polenta, so I immediately bought a bag.
And it worked…sort of. If you can’t find actual polenta like I couldn’t, here’s my advice: buy the coarse grind cornmeal, but double the amount of it rather than substituting it one-to-one with the polenta.
I was so ready to eat when I took the lid off my pot of polenta and realized it was more in the “soupy” category than the “creamy” one. So, if you decide to make the swap, I highly encourage you to use three cups coarse cornmeal so you can get dinner on the table on time.
This comes from the blog “White Plate, Blank Slate.” You can find the original at http://whiteplateblankslate.com/pork-ragu-with-creamy-polenta. I modified the recipe by changing up the spices a bit and by using a crockpot instead of the stovetop for the bulk of the cook time.
Pork Ragu over Creamy Polenta
- 3 pounds boneless pork shoulder
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1 yellow onion diced
- 6-8 cloves garlic minced
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/2 cup red wine I used a Cabernet-savignon
- 28 ounces whole peeled tomatoes
- 3 teaspoons dried thyme
- 2 teaspoons dried rosemary
- 2 bay leaves
Creamy Polenta Ingredients
- 2 cups milk I used skim
- 4 cups chicken stock or broth
- 1 1/2 cups coarse polenta or 3 cups coarse grind cornmeal
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup parmesan grated, plus more for serving
- salt and pepper to taste
- Cut any excess fat off of the pork shoulder and then cut it into three large pieces. Season them with salt and pepper.
- Heat the canola oil over medium heat in a stock pot or Dutch oven and saute, turning each piece to evenly brown each side.
- Remove the pork from the pot and place in a large crockpot and drain off any accumulated fat.
- Add the onions to the pot and saute until they are soft. Stir in the garlic and tomato paste and saute for about five minutes. Pour in the wine and scrape the bottom of the pot to deglaze it. Cook for another five minutes and then add the tomatoes, thyme, rosemary and bay leaves, smashing the tomatoes as you stir.
- Add the mixture, along with two cups of water, to the pork in the crockpot. Cook for two and one-half to three hours on high or five to six hours on low.
- When the pork is done, shred it with two forks, and stir it back into the sauce, adding salt and pepper to taste and removing the bay leaves.
- For the polenta, add the milk and chicken stock to a stock pot or Dutch oven and bring to a very low boil. Add the polenta or corn meal, whisking constantly as you add it. Once the polenta is well-combined, place a lid on the pot and remove it from heat. Don’t open it again until 20 minutes have elapsed.
- Remove the lid and add the butter and parmesan cheese, whisking until everything is well combined. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve the ragu over top of the polenta in bowls, topping with a bit more parmesan.
This was so, so good, and it made a ton of food. We’ve been enjoying lots of leftovers over the past week, and the ragu would be great as a freezer meal, as well.
I’m sure plenty of polenta purists would say that I didn’t really come up with a worthy substitute, but I’d say that being able to swipe my credit card locally instead of online made it worth it. Plus, it was darn delicious, so polenta or not, this recipe earned an A-plus in my book.
This piece first appeared in print on Oct. 21, 2021.
Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas. If you are interested in sponsoring this column, please contact us through the “Contact Lindsey” link at the top of the page.