116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Growing up in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, I was surrounded by strong women and talented home cooks who could make delicious meals from the simplest of ingredients. My great-grandmother, grandmother, mother and I all lived in the same home and generations of culinary knowledge was passed down to me as a result.
Just three weeks ago, my husband and I welcomed a new baby into our family and added another generation to that line of strong women.
Since the moment our daughter entered our lives, our days have been occupied by feedings, diaper changes and snuggles, and my thoughts have been occupied by what I hope to pass on to her as she grows. My native language, family history and Brazilian culture are all very high on that list, including the recipes that have helped me become the home cook that I am today.
This month’s recipe is a family favorite. Known simply as “polenta ao molho de frango,” or “polenta with chicken sauce,” this deliciously savory and decadent dish is perfect for sharing and an illustration of the influence of migrant cultures on the Brazilian culinary experience.
Brought to southern Brazil by Italian immigrants, polenta is a porridge made from yellow cornmeal, resembling the white corn grits that are popular in American southern cooking.
I like to make my polenta extra creamy and rich, which is why I’ve added cheese and butter to my family’s original recipe.
It is important to use fresh tomatoes rather than canned in this dish. The thinner sauce not only cuts through the rich flavor of the creamy polenta it also contributes to the overall texture of the dish.
This recipe is best executed with multiple cooks in the kitchen, as there are several elements that require full attention at one time, I know I will be cooking this dish with my daughter in the future. Just as I did with my mother when I was growing up, acting as her polenta-stirring sous-chef.
You can follow Alexandra on Instagram @TheHungryGaucha.
(Polenta with Chicken Sauce)
For the sauce
1 large onion, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 green bell peppers, sliced into strips
1 red bell pepper, sliced into strips
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 fresh tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 fresh tomatoes, blended
2 pounds of chicken thighs
For the Polenta
2 cups of milk
2 cups of chicken stock
1 cup of dry polenta
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons of butter
For the sauce: Heat a tablespoon of oil in a deep skillet. Saute onion and garlic on medium heat until onions are translucent.
Combine green and red peppers and saute until slightly tender.
Add in oregano and tomatoes, both blended and chopped, and allow to simmer. Add salt to taste.
In a separate pan, sear salted chicken thighs for 2 minutes on each side and add them to the simmering sauce. Cover and cook on low heat until chicken is cooked through and easily shredded with a fork.
Roughly shred chicken into bite-sized pieces. Serve on top of polenta.
For the polenta: Combine milk and chicken stock in a sauce pan and bring to a low boil.
Add in polenta and cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes, or until you reach the desired consistency, stirring constantly.
Finish off with cheese and butter.
Source: Adapted by Alexandra Olsen