And now for the rest of the meal.
Last week we discussed the merits and ease of making your own polenta. Featured was polenta and sugo sauce, but also included in that meal was a delicious, if uncredited, side. Now we’ll take a look at it up close and personal. Like its name implies, this side dish includes new potatoes, marinated artichoke hearts, kalamata olives and capers in a subtle lemon juice sauce. It works perfectly with the polenta meal complimenting but not overpowering the flavors from the sugo sauce. In fact, a bite that includes all the components of the meal—polenta, sugo and potatoes—has the most complex flavor of the lot. The creamy polenta cut with a bit of acidity from both the sauce and the capers, the slight resistance from the potatoes and olives, the crisper texture and herbed flavor of the artichokes, indeed the whole of the meal is far more than just the mere sum of its parts.
Only the potatoes and the onions are truly cooked in this dish. The rest of the ingredients are only heated in the skillet before serving. With this in mind, the potatoes will take a bit more patience and monitoring. The potatoes need to be tender, but not soft. A fork should be able to pierce all the way through, but not break the potato apart. We’ll also be peeling a strip around the middle of the potato which should help even out the cooking. New potatoes are hardly ever all the same size so some may need to be quartered or halved. Regardless, each piece should be able to be eaten in one bite, so cut accordingly. Also, having the potato pieces roughly the same volume, if not the same shape, will give you a uniform consistency after cooking.
As for cooking, the potatoes get simmered in a pan of chicken stock and water until they are just barely tender. They are drained and can then hold until the rest of the meal is mostly completed. If you plan to make the entire meal in one go, start with the sugo sauce which should be barely bubbling while you begin the polenta. Once the polenta goes in the cake pan to firm up, the new potatoes can go into their cooking liquid. Once they reach their proper tenderness, they can be drained and held while the sausage is prepared. Once the sugo sauce is mixed in with the sausage, the rest of the potato and artichoke dish can be completed. While the artichokes and potatoes are warming, the polenta can be cut and plated. Don’t forget to top everything with a healthy sprinkling of freshly grated parmesan cheese.
If you’re ready to try food prep and cooking on a time table that would put an interconnecting international flight to shame, this dish, and last week’s are a good place to start. While these dishes are all easy to prepare, it’s also easy to end up with parts of it cold or overcooked. There also an added layer of complexity if you need to use any of your pans for more than one part of this entire meal, so plan accordingly.
Artichokes and New Potatoes
- 1½ pounds new potatoes
- 4 cups chicken broth + water
- 16 ozs. marinated artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- ⅔ cup kalamata olives, sliced
- 1 T. capote capers
- 2 T. lemon juice
- 2-3 T. olive oil
- kosher salt
- fresh cracked black pepper
Wash the potatoes thoroughly. Carefully peel a strip around the middle of each potato. Quarter or halve any larger potato. Slice the onions and quarter the artichokes and set these aside. In a 4 quart saucepan, add the potatoes, the chicken broth and enough water to cover the potatoes by a couple of inches. Bring the potatoes to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Simmer the potatoes until they are just tender enough to piece through. Drain the potatoes and return them to the pan to dry.
In a large skillet over medium heat, sweat the onions in the olive oil until they are tender and fragrant but not caramelized. Add the remaining ingredients and the potatoes. Very gently turn the ingredients in the pan to combine and heat evenly. Serve immediately.