“Old World” meet “New World”
Every since I spent two months in Mexico during undergrad, one of my favorite flavors has been green chili. I love salsa verde, chili relleno, “Chilis en Nogado,” and the green chili cheese sauce they seem to serve at every “Mexican” restaurant in Oklahoma. Now, I’m not talking about run-of-the-mill green bell peppers. There is something off about their flavor that I have never really taken to, but give me some jalapeños, poblanos, and seranos, and I’ll be a happy camper. This recipe combines the classic “fajita” flavors of green chili, onion, garlic, and cumin with a typically Italian base, polenta. Now, corn is an essential part of Mexican food, it’s one of the three sisters (corn, beans, and squash) that formed the staple of the pre-colonial Mesoamerican diet. Polenta just isn’t one of the ways I encountered corn in Mexico while I was there.
As a tribute to my inspiration, I added some squash to the base and topped it with homemade black beans. Not only was it delicious, but it made a complete protein and a perfect one bowl meal.
Green Chili Polenta
2 Tbs olive oil
1/4 tsp crushed red chili pepper
1 tsp whole cumin seed
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 jalapeño, destemmed and finely chopped
1 poblano pepper, destemmed and finely chopped
1 small can hot green chilis, diced
1 small can mild green chilis, diced
3-5 cloves of garlic, minced
1.5 cups polenta (not instant)
3 cups water
3 cups milk
1 box frozen pureed winter squash, thawed
1.5 tsp salt
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed dutch oven (I use a 5 quart cast iron one). Add the cumin and red pepper flakes. When the cumin is fragrant, add the onion and sauté for ~3 min, until translucent. Add the chilis and garlic and sauté for another 3-5 minutes. Add the polenta to the pot and toss to coat. Add the salt, water, milk, and squash. Bring mixture to an early boil, stirring well.
When heated well, place in the oven. Bake for 45-50 min, stirring once. When polenta reaches desired consistency, may remove from oven, or stir in 1/2 cup of cheese and return to oven for 5-10min.
Serve immediately, topped with seasoned black beans, monterrey jack or cheddar cheese (or Oaxacan cheese if you can find it), and salsa if you like.
I love polenta, because as you can see it’s super easy to make! You just add the flavors, stick it in the oven and basically forget about it for an hour. If you’d like the recipe for the black beans, just let me know!