"I will feast the soul of the priests with abundance, and my people shall be satisfied with my goodness, declares the Lord."
The photos above are from an impromptu dinner that happened a few days ago. I was doing some recipe testing for an event this week and decided to try it out on some unsuspecting friends (they are very brave!) The menu consisted of a cheesy polenta topped with a meaty bolognese that included both ground pork and beef. I thought it would be fun to just pour out the entire pot of polenta on the biggest cutting boards I have and then top it with the bolognese sauce.
Each person had an "assignment" in getting the food to the table and onto the boards. As we each held our given platter, pan, or dish we scurried into the dining room and each taking a turn, began to build the meal onto the boards. First was the pouring of the hot creamy polenta down the center of the boards, which slowly worked its way toward they edges of the board. Next a little moat was made in the center of the polenta for a pool of bolognese to be added. Then came the sauteed red, yellow, and green peppers and onions, they were placed here and there on corners, followed by the sausages and dollops of pesto for good measure. Serving spoons we placed around the boards so that everyone would be able to reach in and scoop out whatever they wanted to their plates.
Grace was said. Wine was poured, and then the evening leisurely took its course as stories and laughter filled the room in the glow of candlelight. These are moments that I love most. When bonds are strengthened and memories are created. This evening was marked for us, the food we shared helped to connect us in deep and meaningful ways.
Food gathers us. I believe it can be one of the most intimate things we do with others at the holidays. We laugh and share. It's what food allows us to do. It allows us to gather and connect.
This holiday season I am attempting to pursue peace and not perfection. To slow down and simplify. I was wondering, what if we decided that this year we could give the gift of ourselves to those we love most? Opening up our lives and hearts, truly showing hospitality. Taking some of the stress aside, and with fresh eyes fully press into what this holiday is all about. Maybe being more intentional with inviting new people into our homes and around our tables, or to set an extra plate.
I hope that this holiday will be one of abundance for you. Abundance in renewed and strengthened relationships, healing and wholeness and many shared meals around your table that bring not only nourishment but a deep satisfaction. I also hope that you may know the true feasting that comes from God and his goodness toward you. He gives an unlimited supply of love, joy, and peace, and that overflow is what we in turn can offer to others. ~Shannon
POLENTA BY THE YARD AND A QUICK BOLOGNESE
½ ounce dried porcini mushrooms
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound ground beef
½ pound ground pork
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. rosemary, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2/3 cup dry white wine
1 ½ cups chicken stock
½ cup prepared marinara sauce
¼ cup parsley, chopped fine
¼ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Cover the porcini with boiling water and let stand until softened, about 20 minutes. Drain the mushrooms, reserving ¼ cup of the soaking liquid. Finely chop the porcini.
Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the beef, pork and a generous pinch each of salt and pepper; cook over moderate heat, breaking up the meat with a spoon, until barely pink, about 7 minutes. Add the onion and rosemary and cook until the onion is softened and just starting to brown, about 7 minutes.
Add the garlic and chopped porcini to the meat and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the wine and the ¼ cup of porcini soaking liquid and cook, stirring occasionally, until almost evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add the stock and marinara sauce and bring to a boil. Cover partially and cook over moderately low heat until slightly reduced, about 7 minutes. Stir in the parsley and 2 tablespoons of the grated cheese. Transfer to a bowl and garnish with the remaining 2 tablespoons of grated cheese.
The sauce can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. Makes 5 cups
18 cups water
6 cups heavy cream
4 cups fine-ground polenta (not instant)
2 cups shredded Fontina
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
½ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
Freshly ground pepper
Sausage and peppers
In a very large pot, combine the water with the heavy cream, season with salt and bring to a boil. Gradually whisk in the polenta and bring to a boil over moderately high heat, whisking constantly. Cook the polenta over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until thick, creamy and no longer gritty, about 30 minutes. Stir in the Fontina and Parmigiano-Reggiano with a wooden spoon until melted, then stir in the nutmeg and season with salt and pepper.
Immediately pour the polenta on the butcher paper and invite guests to grab spoons and forks, add Quick Bolognese Sauce. SERVE WITH: Sausage and peppers, or top with Bolognese sauce, marinara sauce or pesto
If making ahead cover the polenta in the pot it was cooking in with plastic wrap and then a layer of foil. Place in a warm oven.