A few weeks ago, I was asked to be a guest chef for FareStart Seattle
and to prepare a 3-course dinner for their restaurant patrons. FareStart is a culinary job training and placement program for homeless and disadvantaged individuals. Over the past 20 years, they have provided opportunities for nearly 6,000 people.
The recipe I wanted to share with you today is the "Herb Polenta French Fries with Peppadew Pepper Aioli". It was created especially for our FareStart menu. What I like about this dish is its fun spin on the ever popular French fry and how easy it is to make. The polenta fries are the perfect appetizer or side dish to any entree. For our dinner, we served the fries as an accompaniment to another one of my favorites -Blackberry Braised Beef Short Rib.
As the Tulalip Resort banquet chef, I am always striving to experience new flavors and unique approaches to different foods. Please enjoy this recipe as a party appetizer, an accompaniment to one of your favorite entrees or as a fun family snack.
French Fried Herbed Polenta
Yield: 20 - 40 fries; serves 6-8 portions
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon shallots, chopped
1 teaspoon garlic, chopped
2 teaspoon rosemary, chopped
2 teaspoon thyme, chopped
4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup polenta yellow
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup all purpose flour (for dusting)
1 tablespoon seasoning salt or regular salt works as well.
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated (for tossing with the polenta fries)
Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic, shallots, rosemary, and thyme and sauté for three minutes, stirring constantly. Add water, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, mix in polenta, cook for 10 - 15 minutes, stirring constantly, until it is thick and pulling away from the sides. Add the shredded cheese and continue to stir until it is incorporated. Remove from heat, spread polenta evenly in a well greased or parchment paper lined casserole dish or sheet pan measuring 1/2 inch to 1 inch thick. Let cool for one hour or until firm. This can be made up to one day ahead.
Once cooled, trim the edges square and cut out the French fries, measuring about 3 inches by 1/2 inch squared. The polenta fries don't have to be exactly this size or the same, but look best if they are closer in size and shape. Thicker fries will be creamier inside and thinner ones will be crispier.
Gently toss the cut fries in flour and fry to a golden brown (see below*). Toss immediately with seasoning salt and grated parmesan cheese. Serve hot with the Peppadew pepper aioli.
*For best results, cook the fries in a deep fryer, with the oil at 350 degrees. Cooking times will vary depending on your type of home fryer. If using a saucepan, fill it half full with vegetable oil, bringing to a light simmer. Test one fry to verify the oil is hot enough. Then fry in small batches until golden brown.
Peppadew Pepper Aioli
Yield: 1.5 cups
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons sweet onions, minced
1 tablespoon fresh garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme, finely chopped (if using dry 1/8 tsp works)
1 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 teaspoon lemon juice, fresh squeezed
1/4 teaspoon seasoning salt or table salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup peppadew peppers, chopped (Available in jars at grocery stores with specialty food section or at gourmet food stores. If not available, cherry peppers can be substituted.)
Heat olive oil in a small sauté pan, add sweet onions, garlic and thyme, sautéing for 3-5 minutes, stirring regularly. Remove from heat and combine with remaining ingredients. Using a hand blender or a food processor, blend until smooth or simply mix by hand. The sauce is at its best if made several hours in advance or a day ahead.