Tag Archives: cornmeal

Creamy Squash, Spinach, and Chicken Polenta Casserole

17 Apr
Creamy Squash Spinach and Chicken Polenta Casserole

Creamy Squash Spinach and Chicken Polenta Casserole

Strange ingredients? Please hear me out. This is NOT weird at all and received multiple thumbs up from the family. Gosh, even the leftovers were awesome. There is something about the down-home creamy corn base from the polenta and slightly sweet taste from the squashes and then the spinach and chicken that just made this an incredibly surprising meal! My eyes gone wide, you know what I mean? WOW! (This actually doesn’t even need the chicken and could be vegetarian, but the meat was already defrosted.)

I had the defrosted chicken breast and a fresh bag of spinach, and set my sights on something new for the combination. I have made my Balsamic Chicken and Spinach more times than I can count the past few years. Somehow I came across some vegetarian polenta and spinach casserole recipes, and tasked myself with coming up with a recipe my family would actually eat.

I found a great recipe with fresh spinach and mushrooms but it used pre-made polenta cakes. Another recipe I found had a creamy homemade polenta base with zucchini, squash and tomatoes. Well, the daughter doesn’t “do” mushrooms, I only had fresh spinach and dried polenta grain on hand, so decided to mix up the two recipes and came up with my own original. You will NOT be disappointed. (Aside note: I was following the vegetarian version recipes and totally spaced on browning the chicken until assembly. Yikes! So please, follow my instructions below instead of doing what I did. Or, omit chicken altogether. It all worked out, we only ate 10 minutes later than the original plan.)

Creamy Squash, Spinach, and Chicken Polenta Casserole

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken (breasts or thighs)
Ground black pepper, and salt or Mrs. Dash, to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups water
2 cups milk
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup dried polenta (course cornmeal)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 to 3/4 cup chopped onion
1 small zucchini, sliced and quartered (about 1 cup)
1 small yellow squash, sliced and quartered (about 1 cup)
1 15-ounce can of diced tomatoes with oregano, garlic and basil (if yours are plain diced, add dried or fresh herbs to taste)
1 8 to 10-ounce bag fresh spinach
Ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup shredded fresh Mozarrella cheese
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces and season to taste with ground black pepper and salt or Mrs. Dash. Heat a skillet with the 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat and brown the chicken about 5 to 7 minutes, stirring often. Set aside.

Cooking the Creamy Polenta

Cooking the Creamy Polenta

Heat 1 1/2 cups of water in a medium sauce pot to boil. Stir together the milk and polenta to make a slurry, then add to the boiling water. Bring up to a simmer then reduce the heat and simmer for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thickened. (If you want you could brown the chicken now in this step. I just didn’t want you to forget!)

Creamy Polenta Poured into Pan

Creamy Polenta Poured into Pan

When the polenta is done, pour it into an oil-sprayed 13 x 9 or so sized casserole dish and set aside.

Chopped Onion, Zucchini, and Squash

Chopped Onion, Zucchini, and Squash

Meanwhile, add the 2 tablespoons olive oil to a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, zucchini, and squash and sauté until the onions are softened.

Vegetable Mixture Simmering

Vegetable Mixture Simmering

Add the tomatoes (and spices if tomatoes aren’t pre-seasoned). Bring up to a simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the browned chicken and mix to combine. Now, by handfuls, tear up the spinach and add to the mixture and stir in until all is added and wilted.

Spinach Wilting into Vegetables

Spinach Wilting into Vegetables ~ WAIT ~ You don’t see that forgotten chicken in the background you had to cook first, right??

Meanwhile (again), preheat the oven to 350 degrees. After the vegetable mixture is done, spread it evenly on top of the polenta in the casserole dish. Top with a combination of shredded Mozarella and Parmesan cheeses.

Creamy Squash Spinach and Chicken Polenta Casserole Ready to Bake

Creamy Squash, Spinach, and Chicken Polenta Casserole Ready to Bake

Bake for about 25 minutes until it is heated through and bubbly and the cheese has melted. Turn the heat up to broil and broil for 5 minutes. Take out of oven and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve on plates or in bowls. Nothing else is needed, as this is an entire meal! If this weren’t so fugly coming out of the casserole dish, I’d call it guest-worthy (taste-wise)!

p.s. (My sister arrived today from Texas for 10 days, so I might not get a post out for awhile. Enjoy browsing my archives if you want if you are a newcomer!)

Casserole Half-Eaten

Casserole Half-Eaten~ YEP! Three of us pretty much wiped out half of a lasagna pan of this in one sitting!

 

Download and Print this Recipe

Download and Print this Yummy Recipe!

Steak Fingers with Cream Gravy Dipping Sauce

25 Feb
Steak Fingers with Cream Gravy Dipping Sauce

Steak Fingers with Cream Gravy Dipping Sauce

Who am I kidding? This is just my standard chicken-fried steak recipe, except I cut the tenderized round steak into “fingers” and turned them into dipping food! I was trying to think of something different to make with one of the many packages of tenderized top round in our freezer from the cow quarter we bought last year. It also needed to be something my daughter would eat. My daughter is a huge fan of my Garlicky Parmesan Chicken Tenders, so figured she’d go along with this idea of steak prepared in somewhat the same manner. (Although I bake the chicken tenders, not fry them.)

As expected, these were a hit! She liked them so much she brought leftovers to school the next day for lunch. And yes, my husband liked them too but he also likes my chicken-fried steak when I make it. Instead of serving with the usual mashed potatoes and green beans, I made french fries and a salad to go with this. (Plus then I could dip my fries in the gravy sauce too!)

Here is what I did:

Steak Fingers with Cream Gravy Dipping Sauce

1.5 to 2 pounds tenderized top round steak (or cube steak)
Ground pepper, and salt or Mrs. Dash, to taste
2 eggs
1/2 cup of milk
1 cup flour
1 cup cornmeal
More black pepper and Mrs. Dash, to taste
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or less if you don’t want too spicy)
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon butter
Vegetable oil, for skillet
2 tablespoons reserved cornmeal, flour mixture, or just plain flour
2 cups milk
More ground black pepper, for gravy

Cut the steak into strips across the grain about 1-inch wide and season them with pepper and salt, or Mrs. Dash, to taste. In a shallow bowl, beat the eggs and milk together. In yet another shallow bowl or on a large plate, mixed together the flour, cornmeal, and spices with a fork until well blended.

Breaded Steak Fingers Ready to Cook

Breaded Steak Fingers Ready to Cook

Dredge the steak fingers, one at a time, first through the cornmeal/flour mixture, then in the egg, then back into the mixture until well coated. Set in a single layer on a cooking sheet. Your fingers will get clumpy after a while, so you will have to rinse your hands a few times. Dredge until all pieces are coated.

Frying the First Side of Steak

Frying the First Side of Steak

Add the butter and vegetable oil to a large cast iron or heavy bottomed skillet and heat over medium, to medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the steak fingers with tongs one at a time, leaving space between them. Do not overcrowd the pan. You will have to do this in batches. Cook on each side for a few minutes until golden brown and no more red juice is seeping from the steak. Remove to paper-towel lined plate and continue cooking the rest of the steak.

Frying the Second Side of Steak

Frying the Second Side of Steak

Once all the steak fingers are cooked, pour out all but a couple of tablespoons of oil from the pan. Whisk in about 2 tablespoons of the reserved cornmeal/flower mixture, or add in new flour if you ran out or forgot to save some. Continue whisking until a golden brown, then pour in the milk all at once. Continue whisking and stirring until the the cream gravy is the consistency you want. If it gets too thick, you can add more milk or water.

Whisking the Cream Gravy Dipping Sauce

Whisking the Cream Gravy Dipping Sauce

Remove from heat, pour into dipping bowls, and serve with the steak fingers. Finger-licking good!

Steak Fingers with Cream Gravy Dipping Sauce2

Steak Fingers with Cream Gravy Dipping Sauce

Download and Print this Recipe

Download and Print this Yummy Recipe!

Crispy Fried Chicken Livers with Cream Gravy

3 Feb
Frying the Chicken Livers

Frying the Chicken Livers

Oh my word, my tastebuds and thoughts are oozing Texas right now! I took the opportunity while my hubby and daughter were gone to make a decadent mound of crispy fried chicken livers with homemade cream gravy that just made my heart sing. (It’s probably also about go into cardiac arrest, but I’ll worry about that later.) I almost always ordered these at Threadgills when I lived in Austin, and I’ve been craving them for quite some time now. The only problem is my family can’t stand chicken livers and I’m forbade to stinky up the house with this little indulgence of mine when they are around.  Now I know, just like cilantro, you are either in the liver-lover or liver-hater camp. I’m sure I already lost those in the latter camp when they read the title, but they are forgiven. (Hey I wonder if there is a correlation between cilantro haters and liver haters? Something to ponder…)

Frying up a batch of chicken livers and cream gravy is another one of those things that just comes to you naturally when you’re from the South Texas. I didn’t have to look up a recipe, I eyeballed the amounts, and just cooked them as surely as putting on a pair of shoes. I wanted to say boots, but my poor feet can’t fit into them anymore. Anyways, I pretty much danced around the kitchen when I made these, literally. I forgot how much they pop and splatter! I started out by using my splatter screen, but even that was not enough to prevent a major grease event on my countertop and pinging me in the face and arms a few times. I quickly put on a solid pan lid after fearing for my camera as I was trying to set it up on my tripod for a shot. I took the chance and quickly snapped off two shots of them frying, and luckily the camera survived and the photos came out OK. Actually they ended up being the best shots! One of my other shots includes a very suspect chicken liver, reduced in size so as not to gross you out too much. All the other chicken livers were a nice vibrant reddish color, and this one just looked pale and anemic. That chicken must not have eaten his vitamins. I didn’t even bother giving it to my dog, it kind of scared me. It went down the disposal.

Anemic Chicken Liver

Anemic Chicken Liver in Front

I had every intention to make some smashed taters with these and wilt up some baby spinach as sides, but seeing as I was in an indulgent mood, I skipped them altogether and gorged myself silly on these instead. I promised myself to eat nothing but greens for lunch the next day and double up my morning shower exercises. I felt better already just thinking that!

Fried Chicken Livers with Cream Gravy

1 pound chicken livers
1/2 cup or so of flour
1/8 cup (or so) of cornmeal
Lots of ground black pepper, to taste
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Mrs. Dash or salt, to taste
1 egg
Splash of milk
Vegetable oil, for frying, about a 1/4-inch deep in skillet
1 cup milk

First, rinse off the chicken livers then drain and pat dry as much as possible. The drier they are the less they will pop and spit at you, but that won’t prevent them from splattering once they start frying, let me tell you! Next add the flour, cornmeal and seasonings to a plate and mix’em up. The cornmeal was an afterthought. I like to use it with my chicken-fried steak and said, what the heck, and grabbed the box and tumped some into the mix. My husband thinks “tump” is a funny word. He’s not from Texas, obviously.

In a bowl, whisk the egg and a glurg of milk. By glurg, I mean just pour a quick bit in and it goes “glurg” if your milk container is full. If not, it will just be a splash. At this point, you can start heating up the oil to medium-high heat in a cast iron skillet or another sturdy one. Put the chicken livers in the egg/milk wash, then one by one dredge them through the flour/cornmeal mixture and set them on another plate. Once you’ve got them all coated, your oil should be good and hot and ready. Using tongs, slowly add them to the hot oil. (Don’t throw that extra flour out on the plate yet! You’ll need it for the gravy.) Have a lid ready to cover them up as soon as they are all in. Trust me! At your own risk, peek in at them around three to four minutes later. These puppies don’t take that long to cook up! Now comes the scary part. Uncover, shield your eyes, and quickly flip them over using your tongs and cover right up again. Don’t be surprised if the lid actually pops up a bit. For a spell it sounded like firecrackers in my house! Another three to four minutes later, turn off the heat and slide the pan off the burner. Uncover, and remove to a plate covered with paper towels to drain.

Fried Chicken Livers with Cream Gravy

Fried Chicken Livers with Cream Gravy

While the chicken livers are draining, whisk up the cup of milk with about a tablespoon of the flour/cornmeal mixture left on the plate I told you to keep. Forgot to save it or didn’t have enough? No worries, just add a tablespoon of fresh flour. Pour off all about a tablespoon of the oil in the skillet and keep all those crispy bits in the bottom of the pan. Put the skillet back on the burner and turn to medium heat. Slowly whisk in the milk mixture, stirring constantly, until all the oil is combined and it’s thickened and bubbly— it takes just a few minutes for this. Season with lots of additional pepper and a little salt, if you want. Since hubby was gone I also added some salt seeing as I was in a risky mood anyways. Serve the chicken livers with the gravy, and dip them liberally into the gravy and eat with your fingers and be in heaven.

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