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melted leek & lemon stew with feta polenta

Feta Polenta by Salt+Fat+Whiskey

I did not grow up eating polenta.

When I was a kid, a steaming pot of buttery white grits coaxed me out of bed every Sunday morning. The walls would buzz and bounce with Rubber Soul on vinyl while I piled my plate high with scrambled eggs, hash browns, crispy bacon, syrup-smothered blueberry pancakes, and a heaping spoonful of that slow spreading salty corn mush. It was perfect. Creamy and hot and seasoned with plenty of black pepper.

These breakfasts were epic and never missed. They often ended with me sipping a small mug of coffee swirled with milk, chocolate syrup, and a dollop of ice cream – because Dad has a generous sweet tooth. Most of the hours following these meals were spent climbing spindly oaks to catch lizards or having Super Soaker battles with the neighborhood boys. Those breakfasts fueled my childhood and the memory of them still makes me crave home.

The first time I had polenta was sometime in my teens as I was navigating vegetarianism. I bought one of those plastic sausage tubes of pre-cooked polenta and fumbled my way through a pretty weird and very dry baked polenta cake thingy with marinara dumped on top. Definitely not as satisfying as Mom’s grits. It wasn’t until many years later that I discovered the delicious potential this Italian style held – both creamy and grilled.

There is discussion on the interwebs about whether there’s any real difference between polenta and grits, but they’re both ground cornmeal that can be used interchangeably for various preparations. Back in the South, processed white grits are more traditional, but I much prefer some gorgeous stoneground heirloom corn grits/polenta, and especially with cheese.

Feta Polenta by Sat+Fat+Whiskey


This recipe came together on a whim and turned out crazy good. I bought the polenta and a few leeks at the market, grabbed a couple of lemons from the bar, popped open a can of garbanzos and went for it. It is certainly comfort food and makes a lovely meal for those balmy late spring days that turn a little chilly when the sun sets.


Melted Leek Stew by Salt+Fat+Whiskey

Melted Leek Stew by Sat+Fat+Whiskey

Melted Leek Stew by Salt+Fat+Whiskey


melted leek & lemon stew

2 organic free range chicken breasts, oven baked
2 leeks, thinly sliced
1/2 onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1 can organic garbanzo beans
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup diced tomatoes
2 lemons, juiced
2 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cups white wine
4 tbsp all-purpose flour
4 tbsp butter
2 tbsp organic extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp oregano
1/2 tsp rosemary
1 bay leaf
fine sea salt + cracked pepper

Over medium heat, melt 2 tbsp of the butter in a cast iron skillet. Add the leeks and stir. Toss in a pinch of salt. Allow the leeks to slowly cook, stirring often, until they begin to become translucent and caramelize. Mix in the onions, carrots, 1/2 the garlic, and peppers. Continue to stir and cook until the onions begin to turn translucent, but the carrots still have bite.

In a separate pan, make a blond roux: heat the remaining 2 tbsp of butter and the 2 tbsp of olive oil in the pan until melted together. Stir in the flour and whisk for several minutes until combined and smooth. That’s your roux which will act as a thickener for the sauce. Next, slowly whisk in the white wine and mix well. Then add the chicken stock and 1/2 of the lemon juice. Pour over the veggie mixture in the skillet and stir together. Add the herbs.

In another pan, toss the strained garbanzo beans with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and the remaining lemon juice and garlic. Gently toast over medium-high heat until the garbanzos just begin to brown on one side while stirring often. Be careful not to burn the garlic. Add the tomatoes to the beans and stir together. Now combine this with your stew base. Toss in your freshly baked chicken and cover the stew with a lid.


feta polenta

2 cups water
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup polenta/corn grits
1/3 cup chopped feta cheese

In a pot, bring liquid to a boil and then add your polenta. Stir well, reduce heat to a slight simmer, and stir well for 5 to 10 minutes. Check the texture often. You want the liquid to boil off to the point where the polenta becomes thick but is still creamy and smooth – not dry, chunky, or solid. You want your polenta to relax on the plate. Remove from the heat, stir in the feta, a tablespoon of butter, salt and pepper to taste, and then cover and allow to stand for a few minutes before serving with stew ladled on top. Eat!


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