Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Chicken Ragu with Cheesy Polenta


I recently purchased the special edition of Gourmet magazine (The Italian Kitchen). I like to go through new food magazines and bookmark recipes that I would like to try out. As I was paging my way through this particular magazine, I found myself marking almost every single page. I will be featuring several of the recipes over the next month or so, or you can order the book for yourself  here. 

I got home from work later than anticipated, so I went with one of the faster recipes for my first foray into the Gourmet Italian yummy-ness. It's officially called Quick Chicken Ragu and they suggest you serve it with polenta. I chose to make my polenta cheesy because- well, what isn't improved by adding "cheesy" to the beginning??

Well, let's get started, shall we?
Quick Chicken Ragu with Cheesy Polenta
2 tbsp EVOO
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2/3 c diced pancetta
1 tbsp finely chopped sage
1 1/2 tsp finely chopped rosemary
1 1/2 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1 c light dry red wine (I used a Pinot Noir)
1 14 or 15 oz can diced tomatoes in juice, drained (I used the ones with basil and garlic added)
Sea salt & black pepper
2 c chicken stock
3/4 c of some milk product (heavy cream is probably the most tasty, but I used skim milk and it was still really good)
3/4 c polenta (corn grits)
1//4 c grated parm
chopped mozz to taste (I'll talk about this in a bit)

Ok, toss all the ingredients into a pot and cross your fingers......
I'm just kidding.

- Heat the oil and butter in a 12 inch skillet (mine was about 2 inches deep and was perfect for this.) Get it good and hot (but not smoking) and toss in the pancetta. This is the one part of the recipe that allows you to get it good and crisp, so let it cook for a couple of minutes. 

- Add sage and rosemary and cook for 30 sec

- add chicken and cook until it's no longer pink on the outside. The recipe said 2-3 mins, it took me about 4-5.

Add onion, carrot, and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the veggies are soft- about 5-7 minutes.


Add wine and simmer, uncovered, until the liquid is reduced (about 10 minutes). During this time, start the polenta. 

So here is the thing about polenta. There are 5 bijillion opinions about what to use if the container doesn't actually say "polenta." After some internet research, I determined that "corn grits" are the closest to what is packaged as polenta. Corn grits are coarser ground- corn meal is typically much finer and won't have the same texture.  (see a recipe I will probably post tonight or tomorrow for blueberry corncakes- using corn meal.) Keep in mind I live in a small midwestern town and if you live in an actual city with actual markets that carry these kinds of things, you probably won't have to worry about this (as yours will just be labeled "polenta".) 
The recipe suggested that I not use instant polenta, so I bought "corn grits" that do not claim to be instant. I put  the chicken stock (I used the same condensed stock I used in this recipe) and skim milk in a slope-sided pan and brought it to a rolling boil. I reduced the heat to a simmer and whisked in the polenta. At this point, it is supposed to simmer for 30 minutes and slowly thicken. MY polenta, however, thickened immediately (like instant cream of wheat.) So I either have a magic stove or managed to buy instant polenta. I actually had to add a little extra milk to thin it out a bit because it tightened up so fast. I shut off the heat and put the lid on while I finished the ragu recipe..

Add the tomatoes, sea salt, and pepper to the chicken mixture. Let it simmer and thicken for about 10 minutes- I took this opportunity to slice some bread, pour some wine, and get the plates ready. 

I then grated a buuuunch of fresh parm and chopped some fresh mozzarella and tossed it into the warm polenta. It was very tasty. However, it also became a bit of a stringy, gooey mess :) The main problem was dishing it up (wish I had  thought to take a pic here.) So as long as you don't mind the ooey gooey fantastic stretchiness of melty cheese in your polenta, go nuts with the mozzarella!! 

So after wrestling with the polenta and getting most of it into the bowl, I topped it with the ragu mixture- then tossed a little extra parm on top, just for fun. It was verrrrry hearty and filling. I would suggest a side salad, but I'm not sure you would end up eating it. We used some crusty bread to soak up some of the extra sauce and even that was a bit too much :) 

Overall,  a fantastic recipe and I can't wait to try the others from Gourmet.


  1. What kind of pans do you have? I take it this is not off the no-carbs diet? I can't wait to try it!! I tried your pork chops and they were AMAZING.

  2. Terrific work! This is the type of information that should be shared around the web. Shame on the search engines for not positioning this post higher!

  3. Yay glad you liked t hem. I actually have the Aeternum pans- we just found them at our local kitchen shop and I pretty much haven't used anything but those pans for a month. I have the 10 and 12 inch saute pans with the white nano-ceramic coating:
    They are also super reasonable on price and have a great warranty.

    Oh, and yeah, this is definitely *not* on the no-carb list :)