Chicken with polenta and bagna is an old family recipe that is perfect on cold winter days. Butter, sage and chicken broth make a tasty bagna to go with the creamy polenta and cheese. My MIL always tells people she is FBI — full blooded Italian. She has a lot of interesting stories about her childhood and growing up with 9 brothers and sisters. Can you imagine? She also has a lot of unusual recipes like sticky cheese, bagna cauda and stuffed raw peppers. This dish is one of my family’s favorites when it’s cold outside and you want something that will stick to your bones. I believe my MIL’s family used to eat rabbit with their polenta instead of the chicken but I’m not that adventurous yet. The polenta is soft with a layer of cheese in the middle (brick or blue cheese) and topped with the stock from the chicken (bagna). It’s one of those recipes we can make anytime since I always have chicken in the freezer and cornmeal in the cupboard.
This is a pretty simple and straight forward recipe. The first thing you want to do is to salt & pepper your chicken thighs and then brown them in a little olive oil. I use a dutch oven but can just use whatever you pot that you like as long as it has a lid. Next add your butter, sage and chicken stock and cover. Turn down the heat to medium and cook until the chicken is tender. This is our finished chicken with bagna below. (By the way, from what I can gather from the interewebz, bagna means “wet” or “bath”. Not sure if this is the correct terminology but this is what my MIL has always called it.) For the polenta I just follow the directions on the corn meal container. Mine says 4 cups of water to 1 cup of corn meal. You bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Then add the cornmeal to the remaining 1 cup of water and mix. Add that cornmeal mixture to the boiling water slowly. Stir constantly until it thickens and then cover, turn down low and cook for 5 more minutes. That’s all there is to it. The polenta will harden as it cools so you want to make this just before you eat. It only takes about 10-15 minutes so plan on making it 15 minutes before you sit down. To serve, just put a helping of polenta on your plate, cover with a piece of brick cheese (halvarti or jack cheese can be a substitute) or blue cheese if you like. I personally like both brick and blue cheese. Then add another helping of polenta and top off with a ladle of the buttery juices from the chicken (bagna). Serve with a pice of the chicken. So it’s:
Polenta —> Cheese —> Polenta —>Bagna —> Chicken on the side.
This was the first polenta dish I’ve ever had and it’s going to be hard to beat. It’s very cold here in Pittsburgh today and it seemed the perfect day for a plate of Penny’s polenta. I hope you like it as much as we do. Enjoy!
Recipe: Penny's Polenta & Chicken with Bagna
- 5-6 chicken thighs
- 1-2 Tablespoons olive oil
- salt & pepper
- 4 Tablespoons butter
- 1 cup chicken broth or bouillon
- 2 teaspoons dried sage
- 1 cup corn meal
- 4 cups water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 slices of brick cheese or halvarti or jack cheese - optional
- blue cheese crumbles- optional
In a dutch over or large pot, heat the olive oil.
Salt and pepper your chicken thighs and brown in the pan.
Next add butter, broth and sage. Cover and cook until the chicken is done 20-30 minutes on medium.
minutes before serving make the polenta. Follow the directions on the container.
(My directions say to boil 3 cups of water. Then add the 1 cup of polenta and salt to the remaining 1 cup of water. Add polenta mixture to boiling water and stir constantly until it thickens. Cover and turn on low for 5 minutes and it's done.)
To assemble, add a small mound of polenta to your plate. Top with cheese then add another layer of polenta. Ladle some of the bagna (sauce from the chicken) on top.
Serve with a piece of the chicken.