This months Daring Cooks challenge was to make something new (to us) using cornmeal. Initially, this seemed a bit challenging, as we do regularly use cornmeal in various dishes. And some of the challenge recipes, which included Caribbean coucou and Malawian nsima really seemed like variants on polenta or other items we’ve made before even if they were called something different.
However, one idea came to mind and just wouldn’t leave: cornmeal pasta. I used to order this each time we visited Laghi, a long-closed Italian restaurant here in San Francisco and have never seen it anywhere else.
The pasta is rustic in texture, perfect for holding on to a thick sauce, but not grainy like you might think it would be. It needs to be cut slightly thicker than a standard pasta because it’s a bit more prone to tearing – we rolled to setting 7 of 9 on our pasta machine.
It’s honestly delicious – definitely will feature regularly in our weekend pasta dinners.
Corn Meal Pasta
Recipe: We made this using a simple variant on our usual pasta recipe - instead of 2 cups of flour and 3 eggs, we used 1 1/2 cups of flour, 1/2 cup of cornmeal and 3 eggs. Put it all in the food processor, process until it starts to come together in large clumps and then knead until it forms a smooth ball of dough. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, then roll out using a pasta machine. It was noticeably stiffer than our usual all-flour dough, but still make nice fettuccine. Serving suggestion (below) – your favorite thick ragu, preferably simmered slowly for at least 3-4 hours. Ours never seems to be quite the same twice, but usually starts with cooking a mirepoix (finely diced onion, carrots and celery) in olive oil until soft, browning the meat (we usually use at least 2 different kinds – this one was pork and beef) and then add tomato paste, diced tomatoes, some red wine, some herbs (I think it was mostly parsley this time) and seasoning.
Just for fun, we decided to try something else that we’d never made and had never even considered making (‘til now): corn dogs. I used to always get a corn dog during our annual visit to Disneyland when I was growing up. Just tasting them again after all these year brought back memories.
They were actually quite good – the batter was incredibly light and creamy with a perfectly crisp exterior.
1 cup flour
2/3 cups corn meal
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp oil
1 dozen hot dogs (we used mini hot dogs)
Corn oil for frying
Mix the batter ingredients. The batter will thicken as it sits, add a little milk if it gets too thick to easily coat your dogs.
Heat 1 1/2 – 2 inches of oil in a saucepan to 350 F.
Dip the hot dogs into the batter, turn to coat, then fry a couple at a time making sure to give them plenty of breathing room in the pan.
Cook, turning occasionally, until deeply golden about 5 minutes.
Drain and serve, preferably at the Country Bear Jamboree at Disneyland :-)
Rachael of pizzarossa was our August 2012 Daring Cook hostess and she challenged us to broaden our knowledge of cornmeal! Rachael provided us with some amazing recipes and encouraged us to hunt down other cornmeal recipes that we’d never tried before – opening our eyes to literally 100s of cuisines and 1000s of new-to-us recipes!