Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Chicken Ragu with Polenta for dinner...

Gus is not a very happy pup today... see, he was whisked away for a little trip to the vet this morning. It was time he went in for his "snip snip" and when we picked him up, he used those big beautiful blue eyes of his (yes, what you see below is his natural eye color!) to let us know exactly what he thought about his little procedure! I have a feeling he's not going to let us forget about this for awhile and guilt us into several pup treats.

I decided to keep myself busy from his wide-eyed stares and got to work on this Chicken Ragu with Polenta that I made for our dinner tonight.

For the polenta, I much prefer using coarse yellow cornmeal as I find the flavor is more defined and developed this way. It does take awhile, anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour depending on how slow you cook it, but if you don't have time for that, you can use instant polenta instead. If you haven't tried it the slow way though, I implore you to give it a try when you have some extra time so you can see for yourself - it is worth it. When the polenta was done, we dropped in a couple knobs of butter, a hefty shower of fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and a handful of chopped parsley to freshen up the golden mass.

While the polenta was workin' away, I got started with the chicken ragu portion. I coarsely ground a combo of chicken breast and thigh meat to use in this dish - you could use strictly either, but we like a mix to lighten it up. I tossed the ground meat into a pot with a hot layer of olive oil and butter waiting to brown the bits up. To season, we added the obligatory salt and fresh ground black pepper, along with a spoonful or two of poultry seasoning. Once cooked through, we stirred in chopped fresh rosemary, a couple cloves worth of minced garlic, chopped onion, celery, bright shredded carrots and a bay leaf.

Cooked until the onion is soft, a few tablespoons of tomato paste are added - be sure to stir this around in the pot for at least a minute to allow the rich flavor of the paste to develop. For a punch of acidity, red wine is poured in, followed by chicken stock and fire-roasted whole tomatoes. While this bubbles away and reduces, you'll want to break up the tomatoes so they are well-distributed... you can do this with a sturdy wooden spoon, but I find using a potato masher makes this job much easier.

Once the sauce had reduced down, we spooned it over a flowing round of the creamy, soft polenta and added a few extra shreds of the sharp cheese on top. I ran out of time, so I probably didn't let the ragu thicken as much as it should have, but the extra juice that pooled around the edges wiggled its way into the polenta, adding extra flavor. The original recipe actually called for 2 pounds of meat with a serving size of only 4 - that is pretty darn excessive, at least for us. Even after reducing the meat to one and a half pounds, we had plenty enough for 6 good-sized servings! I'm also thinking if you have a bunch of turkey leftover from Thanksgiving, you could shred up the extra meat and toss it in here instead of using the chicken!



  1. Poor little Gus...but, he'll get over it soon... and all will be forgiven.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you guys.... and thanks for all the great recipes....

  2. I hope Gus heals quickly and feels better soon!

    Happy Thanksgiving!!


  3. Aw, Gus is adorable!

    Polenta with ragu sounds really good. I need to try cooking polenta more rather than always using pasta as part of the meal. I've been using lentils as alternatives, but I can only do that so much before it gets boring.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  4. Gus reports that he is doing better! He says "Woof Woof!"... which means, thanks!

  5. That looks really, really good!

  6. This looks great - and I LOOOOVE polenta. I've never used the instant/quick cooking stuff, and think I'd be afraid to try it after loving "the real thing".

    Poor Gus - our little guy Doogie goes in for the same "procedure" next Friday. Plus he has one baby tooth that didn't come out when the adult tooth came in - so he might have to have that removed as well. How long did it take Gus to recover from his surgery?

  7. Jeph - Gus is doing great! He was out of it for the first day, but bounced right back and left his stitches alone since then... no lamp shade needed! He goes back in Saturday to get those remove.

    They did tell us that we needed to keep him calm and not let him jump at all, but that was pretty impossible! We tried for the first couple of days, but he is pretty rambunctious and just wanted to play! He also had his two sharp and pointy teeth on top pulled - no problem at all there. We gave him a couple nylabones to chew on that we put in the freezer to help with any swelling.

  8. Why did you have his top two pointy teeth (I assume his canines?) removed? Were these baby teeth - or were they the adult teeth?

    Doogie's having his back dew claws removed during his surgery. I guess dogs may or may not have dew claws on the front or back legs - sounds like it's more common on the front. And then some dew claws may be fully or partially attached to the actual leg with bones (like our finger bones), and some, as in Doogie's case, have no bones attaching them. They just flop around all gross, and stick pretty much straight out. This would be fine, except dogs that are rambunctious and rip-roaring all around the place (as Doogie does) can tear them off, which I guess is real painful and messy, and has to have surgery to clean them up. So our vet recommended having those back dew claws removed. I'm not normally a believer of declawing, but this seems like a safety precaution - more like having wisdom teeth removed.

  9. The vet recommended they be removed - the were the baby teeth and it looked like the adult teeth were trying to come through, but were having a problem. So, since he was already going under for the neuter, it was a good idea to take care of them, rather than waiting around to see and then possibly having another surgery in case the baby teeth didn't fall out. The adult's came through the spot about 2 days later!

    Max has those too on his front legs , but they are close and attached well enough that the vet suggested he leave them be when he was a puppy. We had a dog growing up though where his dew claws were torn off through rough play and it was not fun! Sounds like your making a good call with Doogie!