Thursday, October 2, 2008

Urging Fall into Existence

The walls of my bedroom are empty. I still haven't gotten around to putting up my maps, photos, and artwork since moving in and haven't minded so much, but today their white scratchy texture is ominously silent. I think it's time to let myself settle in a bit more.

One year just sounds like so little time until I pack up my bags, tuck my college diploma under my arm, and head off to another chapter of life.

Yesterday I came back from a couple days in Dallas, and sometimes it is leaving that reminds me that I don't mind staying. This apartment in Abilene is the closest thing to home I have right now. So it's time to decorate the walls.

It's time to let myself move in a bit more and release some grudges against this place that has become home against my will. One grudge I hold right now is against the weather. It is so dang hot here, and we just stepped into October!

I'm looking forward to the night I can crawl into bed and pull all my warm, heavy blankets on top of me. I've tried, but within a couple minutes, I end up kicking everything except the sheet down to the bottom of the bed. I'm hanging onto the idea of baking on a Saturday and enjoying the warmth from the oven, versus walking into another room as often as possible to cool off. And I'm anticipating the foods of fall. Right now, they just don't suit very well. But still I try.

Last night I tried to whip up some fall fare, and it was delicious, despite the fact that as we sat down in the coolest part of the house we could find, our warm bowls did little to keep our sweat at bay.

But if you are in a cooler place than I am, then I encourage you to pull out your cornmeal and make some classic polenta. Its golden yellow color just goes so well with the changing leaves. And even if you're not heading into fall (because I know spring is beginning for my southern friends), polenta is just so good. I don't think your stomach can ever protest against this stuff.

I took my leftover french red onion soup, which I had gratefully been working on since making a big pot of it, and found that age allowed the flavors to mellow out very pleasingly. Slowly softening them a little while longer, and scooping them onto creamy polenta, with the gruyère I bought to accompany they, made for a very happy combo.

It's perfect for fall. Or for those of us who just like to pretend.

Basic Polenta
Based off so very many sources but mostly common sense.

6 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups stone ground cornmeal
1 tablespoon of butter (or up to 3)

Bring water to boil in heavy saucepan. Add salt, and reduce heat to low. Then slowly pour in cornmeal, stirring with a whisk as you go.

Attentively whisk for the next five minutes or so to prevent lumps. Then cover and stir every few minutes. Continue to do this until cornmeal grains have softened and begins to pull away from sides of the pan, about 30 minutes.

Remove from heat. Stir in chunks of butter until melted and combined. Serve immediately.*

*The picture you see at the top of the page is of my polenta the next day, so it has more form to it after being in the fridge in a container. Yours should spread out more on the plate or within the bowl.

French Red Onions
Adapted from this recipe

Red onions, prepared according to this recipe**
3 tablespoons port wine

Using a generous amount of butter (depending on how many onions you have and how much softer they need to get -- I had about half of my soup left and used 4 tablespoons of butter) heat red onions (strained from broth) in a heavy skillet at medium-low heat.

Occasionally stir, slowly letting onions soften, about 30 minutes (mine needed this much time because they never got as soft in the soup-making process). Pour in a generous splash of port. Allow all to combine for a couple more minutes.

Spoon onions and sauce over polenta. Shred gruyère over top.

**I had made the soup earlier in the week. Obviously, you don't have to go through the exact same process to get these red onions. I have ideas for how to get the complex flavor of the already prepared onions without a lot of broth left over, but since I did not do it, I do not want to give you specific directions. I'm sure you can figure it out with some experimentation. Just don't neglect the anise. (It's not so bad after all.)


Arfi Binsted said...

i like french onions. the texture are more like the cross between shallots and onion, don't you think? love them caramelized!

Lael said...

Arfi: I completely agree. It's amazing how something so ordinary, used as many soups' base ingredient, can do so well on its own too. I sure do love them.

Anna Jordan said...

oh you sweet little foodie you... thinking that it's possible for one to make polenta from common sense. Your common sense perhaps but certainly not mine! It's really just because you're gifted.

Rachael said...

..guess it is time to think about stirring up some polenta soon.
To read your words makes me miss you all the more...yet the good part is it makes you seem closer too.
Wish you could have joined Elise and I at the table this cool evening with our warm bowl of Indian lentils. I'll be pulling the covers up to my chin tonight as I say my bedtime prayers for you. Love you, my sweet Lily.

Lael said...

Anna: So nice to see you on my blog, dear! Thanks for the compliments. I'll try not to assume everyone thinks like I do, but I believe you could make polenta if you wanted to too!

Rachael: Mom, thank you.