Another tasty way of making the most of ingredients and creating yet another dish is to make broth from leftover parmesan rinds. I was first introduced to this idea while reading An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace by Tamar Adler. If you enjoy reading and/or cooking, this is a lovely book.
The otherwise hard and inedible rinds of strong cheeses like parmesan make a broth which can then be used to add an interesting and unique depth of flavour to other dishes. Collect the used rinds in the fridge or freezer until you have enough to make a broth. Adding onion and garlic to the simmering broth water adds even more flavour. I prefer to brown the onion and garlic in olive oil first, otherwise it can leave an unpleasant, raw garlic aftertaste.
– 1 tablespoon olive oil
– half a white onion, diced
– 2 cloves garlic, finely diced
– approx 1 cup chopped parmesan rinds
Heat the oil in a heavy based saucepan. Add the onion and cook gently until softened and lightly browned. Add garlic and continue to cook gently for a few minutes. Remove from heat. Add 1¼ litres (1,250mls) water to the saucepan and return the pan to the heat. Add the parmesan rinds and simmer gently for an hour or more. Allow the broth to cool, then strain into a container and store in the fridge or freezer until needed.
Polenta with parmesan broth
Once you have the parmesan broth, you can now use it share its generous flavour with dishes that may not have as much themselves. I have a theory that if you can draw out as much flavour as you can from the healthier, more economical but potentially more bland foods, you will eat more of them. All of a sudden polenta became popular in our house when I cooked it with parmesan broth, even more so when I later fried the firm polenta pieces in olive oil and added paprika and salt.
– 4 cups parmesan broth
– 1 cup polenta
– 1 tablespoon olive oil
– salt to taste
– 1 teaspoon paprika
– 1 tablespoon hard, strong cheese such as parmesan, grated (optional, for soft serve option)
Bring the broth to the boil. Pour the polenta into the hot broth in a thin stream, while stirring. Reduce the heat to moderate and continue to cook the polenta for another 20-30 minutes, stirring regularly.
To serve soft: stir the olive oil, salt, paprika and cheese (if you like) through the cooked polenta and serve immediately.
To serve firm: pour the cooked polenta into a lined or greased tray and flatten out. Allow to cool and become firm. Keep in the fridge for later if need be. When ready to serve, slice the firm polenta into pieces – I like triangles. Heat the olive oil in a fry pan on a moderate to high heat, then shallow fry the polenta pieces in the pan, turning and cooking until heated through and golden brown on the surface. Sprinkle with salt and paprika.
I was inspired by Amy Chaplin to add fresh corn kernels to the polenta near the end of the cook time, and to oven bake rather than fry the polenta. After the polenta has set, cut it into triangles and spread out over two (or one large) oiled and lined oven trays. Bake in a moderate oven for about 20-25 minutes. Baked polenta is fluffier than fried, and quite tasty.
Polenta is a perfect match with roasted tomatoes.
The parmesan broth definitely adds a certain something, a certain I don’t know what to the dish. And, while we’re thinking in French, may I suggest a cute and cheerful soundtrack to the meal, something like Regina Spektor’s Ne Me Quitte Pas.
If you are worried about cleaning the saucepan after cooking polenta, I leave it to soak in water with a little detergent and find that it peels off easily enough after soaking.
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