Thirty Minute Thursdays: Mexican Polenta Bowl

I hope yesterday’s appetizer nachos sparked an interest in Mexican food, because today’s Thirty Minute Thursday takes those flavors to the main course with a Mexican Polenta Bowl. I love cooking with Mexican-inspired ingredients and flavor combinations, which is probably why you see so many recipes on Floptimism that fit that profile. It seems that Rachael Ray also loves the cuisine (nearly as much as she seems to love Italian), because there are several meals within the pages of this cookbook that are at least loosely based on Mexican cuisine. I can’t say that they’re all that authentic, but they do taste delicious; so even if you call these meals Mexican-American cuisine, you should still give them a chance.

You see, this dish is so good. I had a vision for it that didn’t quite pan out – I wanted to cook the polenta and crumble it once it had set, but then added too much stock and the crumbles dissolved again into a pot of creamy corn meal. This isn’t a terrible thing, aside from bursting the bubble image I had in my head of what the meal should look like. It did give it a really nice, rich texture that the crumbles may not have. If you’re interested in the crumble idea, I would suggest trying to simply serve the rest of the ingredients (cooked together) over crumbled and broiled polenta pieces, rather than trying to incorporate the polenta crumbles into the skillet to cook. The recipe below will produce a creamy polenta, but if you experiment with the crumbles please let me know how it works!

This dish is spicy, warm, flavorful, and filling – some of my favorite words to describe a meal. I may actually increase the amount of chicken next time (can you believe I’m saying that??) or cut the pieces smaller to disperse them more. You could also add any number of other ingredients – beans, other vegetables, you name it. The original is for a rice bowl so if you don’t own or aren’t a fan of polenta, that’s a perfectly legitimate option, too.

Mexican Polenta Bowl, adapted from Rachael Ray’s Classic Thirty Minute Meals
Yield: 4 servings

The Ingredients
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
¾ pound thin-sliced chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup polenta, prepared and chilled.
1 quart (no salt added) chicken broth
½ tablespoon chili powder
½ teaspoon paprika
¾ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup black beans
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
4 cups loosely packed spinach
nutritional yeast flakes, for topping (optional)

The Method
Heat the oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Season the chicken with pepper and add the pieces to the pot with the oil. Saute, stirring occasionally, until lightly brown; then, add crumble the polenta into the pot and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes. Stir in the chicken broth, spices, and black beans, and increase the heat to medium-high to bring the mixture to a boil. Once the mixture reaches a boil, reduce the heat and allow to simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Add in the spinach and continue cooking for another 5-6 minutes. Stir in the enchilada sauce and cilantro, remove from heat, and let stand 5 minutes. Top, optionally, with a sprinkling of nutritional yeast flakes. Divide amongst 4 bowls and serve.

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