Every year it's the same exact thing when it comes to the Fourth of July, and very Ellie-like of me. But let me explain what that means precisely. As the day quickly approaches, every year people ask me what I plan to do on the 4th because not celebrating it would be quite un-American obviously, and possibly a low blow to those who have fought for our undeserved freedom to enhance the quality of our lives. But I concluded that un-American might be a harsh misnomer in this case. Although my holiday spirit isn't outwardly shown oftentimes...Okay, almost all the time...I wholeheartedly appreciate that freedom which allows me to hold on to my beliefs, cook and bake in my cozy little kitchen and blog to my heart's content, and nurture our little family of four without too many external influences which could possibly endanger us (Orion the Lion is one of us).
Sure, I may not be the greatest celebrant of holidays unlike the beautiful and sassy Alanna--which by the way, being an enthusiastic celebrant like her is a "life goals" type of thing to aim for--but I do have my better moments. Since dumplings and oxtail soup were the norm on holidays while growing up, as opposed to a family cookout in which hotdogs and relish and all the fixins made the whole cast of the show, I'm finally breaking out of the mold of do's and dont's on holiday food. Well, the term "mold" can be subjective because polenta and smoked salmon isn't necessarily the iconic Fourth of July meal.
After a long, long time of craving this combination that I'd never even tried, much less seen before so please let me know if you've seen it elsewhere as I'm extremely intrigued to see a different twist on it, I drew a mental map of how perfectly every component would fit into these hearty appetizers. Or hors d'ouvres, or sides, or whatever you choose to call them, it doesn't matter. Because these guys are so unbelievably scrumptious, unique, addicting, and even easier to make! Plus, what's more American than corn cakes?! These savory disks of homemade polenta are best enjoyed when pan fried in butter--a decision that I deem equally as awesome as taro meringue chiffon cake. They are crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside. And a darn good vehicle for smoked salmon and cream cheese. To lighten up the taste with a refreshing zing at the end, I drizzled a thick lemongrass ponzu sauce which I admit gives the dish a slight Asian flair. I'm the queen of justification though, so I'll go with the idea that America is a melting pot of cultures....so there. ;)
Happy Fourth, you guys! I'm so thankful for God's blessings. And I'm grateful for all of you for just choosing to persevere through life and for being here!
Pan Fried Polenta with Smoked Salmon, Cream Cheese and Lemongrass Ponzu Sauce
Makes 6-7 appetizer servings || Polenta with help from Giada de Laurentiis
Time: Approximately 1.5 hours including cooling down of polenta
Ingredients for hard polenta
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tbsp butter for frying
Bring water to a boil in a medium sauce pan on medium-high heat and sprinkle salt. Gradually pour cornmeal and stir vigorously to get rid of large clumps. Turn heat down to low-medium and stir constantly with wooden spoon or whisk. Cook approximately 5 minutes. Let it cool for 5 minutes and scoop onto parchment paper. Form it roughly into a log of about 6 inches in length. Roll parchment paper around it and let it cool in this manner, turning sides every 5 minutes so it sets into a nicely shaped log. When polenta is slightly firm, cut into 6-7 disks and cook both sides in butter.
Ingredients for sauce
1/2 tbsp oil of choice
2 tbsp ground lemongrass (I use the one in tubes)
1 tbsp ponzu sauce (or soy sauce with lime)
3 tbsp water
1/2 tsp cornstarch
In a small sauce pan, heat oil on medium. Add lemongrass and stir, then add ponzu and water, stirring often to avoid burning. After about 3-4 minutes gradually add cornstarch and whisk vigorously to thicken sauce.
smoked salmon of choice (I use Whole Foods brand)
6 tbsp cream cheese
tomatoes for garnish
Top polenta disks for cream cheese, smoked salmon, lemongrass ponzu sauce, and garnish with tomatoes.
What do you have planned for the Fourth?
Recipe or dish you're most looking forward to?