Polenta and Sausage with Grapes and Green Tomatoes

Source: Chef Jody Adams and the California Table Grape Commission
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Main Ingredient: Cheese, Dairy
Menu Part: Entree
Cuisine Type: American
Serves: 4

Sausages truly are a cross-cultural food, showing up in almost every cuisine. Polenta calls for Italian sausages, but this recipe is adaptable to other varieties as well. The sweet-acidity of the grapes and green tomatoes nicely balances the richness of this dish.

Ingredients

1 cup coarsely ground cornmeal
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme leaves
4 spicy Italian pork sausages (1 lb.), preferably flavored with fennel
4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 tbsp. finely chopped garlic
1 tbsp. finely chopped ginger
4 green tomatoes (about 1 1/2-lb.)
1 cup chicken or beef stock
1/2 lb. seedless red grapes, cut in half
1/2 lb. seedless green grapes, cut in half
2 tbsp. honey
1/4 tsp. hot red pepper flakes
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 small head radicchio, cut into 1/2-in. strips

Steps

  1. In heavy, med.-sized saucepan, bring 6 cups water to a boil over high heat. Season with salt. Whisk cornmeal into boiling water in a slow steady stream in order to avoid lumps.
  2. Bring mixture back to a boil; reduce heat to low. Cook until polenta is very thick and shiny, about 40 min., stirring constantly. Regulate heat as necessary so mixture doesn’t boil over.
  3. When polenta is done, stir in cheese, butter and 1 tsp. thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Pour into shallow baking dish, 12 in. in diameter.
  4. Preheat broiler. Cut tomatoes in half, remove stems and arrange halves close together, skin-side up, on a baking sheet. Set under broiler; broil until skin is charred, about 5 min. When cool enough to handle, remove skin and chop tomato, seeds and all, into 1/2-in. dice.
  5. With fork, prick sausages 4 times on each side so they don’t burst while cooking. In large, heavy bottomed skillet, combine sausages and 1/4 cup water; cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 5 min. Remove the cover. (At this point the water should have evaporated—if not, just continue heating another min. or two with the cover off until the skillet is dry. )
  6. Add 2 tbsp. olive oil to skillet; increase heat to med. and brown sausages, turning so they color all over, about 10 min. Transfer sausages to a plate.
  7. Add onions to same skillet; season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook until onions start to brown around edges, about 6 min. Add garlic and ginger; cook until aromatic and tender, about 2 min.
  8. Add green tomatoes and stock; return sausages to skillet and cook 30 min., uncovered, turning sausages occasionally so they cook evenly. (Adjust heat as necessary; you want sausages to cook while the sauce thickens, but not so rapidly that the sauce finishes before the sausages cook through.)
  9. Set sausages on top of polenta. (Sauce should be fairly thick. If it isn’t, return skillet to heat, increase heat to med.-high and cook until thick.) Pour sauce over the sausage and polenta.
  10. In small bowl, combine grapes with honey, red pepper flakes and remaining thyme; toss well. Wipe out skillet and add remaining olive oil; place over high heat. Add grapes and sear 1 min. Add radicchio; cook, tossing frequently, until radicchio wilts and grapes soften around edges, about 2 min.
  11. Add vinegar; give one last toss and distribute radicchio-grape mixture evenly over the sausages and polenta.
  12. For service, preheat broiler. Place skillet several inches from heat and cook until grapes are charred and everything is hot, about 5 min. Let rest 4 minutes and then serve.