This polenta, sardines and Parmesan paired with a beautiful garlic sauce is such a winner in my little circle of garlic lovers starting with my two little Dra’culea’s ?- and for those who don’t know my maiden name is Culea - still use it sometimes as I quite like it. Ha Ha. It sounds a little like I am Dracula’s cousin, lol.
So, yeah, as I was saying, who doesn't love a good old pan fried fillet of fish, but combined with a beautiful and cooked to perfection polenta, a good indulgent sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese and the garlic sauce- a combo that is difficult to match - it's just the ultimate. It's actually way too good to be able to even express in words. Maybe just few sounds like hmm, mmmm...ohh, yeahhh and that’s all.
Okay, let me put it this way, if I ever ask kids and I give them options, for a dinner in particular and I say, ok kiddos, choose between A..., B..., C..., D..., E which is polenta with whatever (meat or fish), F... or G...guess what... . My lovely kiddos don’t hear anything before or after option E. All I get shouted back with masses of excitement is always without fail, POLENTA!!
Just to perhaps explain where my kids have the genes from .... Well, as a kid myself, I used to love polenta very much, especially combined with with any fried meat, fish, cheese or creme fraiche or smantana as we call it.
Get ready here... just to show how much I loved polenta - I must reveal this- I used to have any leftover cold polenta with strawberry jam! Yes, you read it correctly, with jam!
As a matter of fact, I used to love it so much and eat with such an appetite that even my grandma became a convinced cold polenta with strawberry jam convert. LOL
Coming back to my kids, they do know very well what they like and what they want 🙂 but their mother (aka Myself) also knows, when she wants it easier, what to mention ;-)) ha ha.
Must be all my fault perhaps for making it quite often but ultimately polenta is very healthy, right?
What is polenta?
For those that don’t really know what polenta is ( yes, I’ve met quite a few people that never heard of it), polenta is cornmeal made very simply from a coarse corn flour and water (boiling water) with a bit of salt.
That's it! Nothing exciting you may say but I won't agree. It’s excintingly delicious particularly if combined with the right ingredients.
Combo options are great, particularly paired with fish like those sardine fillets but try any other fish or meat, cheese or pan fried garlicky mushrooms one of the top recipes in my collection.
Beautiful **Polenta** !!
I remember as a kid we used to eat a lot of bread but the polenta was always very special for us the children and somehow my kids seem to fell the same way.
It’s fairly unique when combined with:
- any pan fried meat or something that has either
- any tomato or a creamy base sauce
- loads of cream or cheese or
- simply served with eggs and cheese and a bit of butter.
Oh all these options are only going to make me shout out everything at superlative!
Fish types and options to pair with polenta:
Flavour wise all these fish works a treat:
Mild, medium and full flavoured fish, I have tried all and it is just beautiful as long as it is not poached 😉 ha ha.
Mild: tilapia, sole, cod, perch, catfish, halibut, walleye - generally white fish that doesn’t really taste like fish so they can have flavours added to them (a garlic sauce is the best;-) )
Medium: snapper, swordfish, trout, yellowtail also known as kampachi, grouper - these are fish that could have some flavour added to them but they have a little more flavour.
Full: tuna, sardines, anchovies, salmon, bluefish, mackerel, herrings - all the fish that I eat regularly, that really tastes fishy and are full of flavour. These are the oily fish and probably the healthiest fish to eat.
I do like fish and we try to have it at least once a week. All the above mentioned fish pair beautifully with polenta especially if panfried with a little oil or butter.
All seriously delicious dishes and I am being very modest here.
Okay then, let's just get cooking. It’s quick n' so yummy!
Simple sardine fillets and polenta with Parmesan cheese and garlic sauce
- 16 sardine fillets fresh or frozen
- 1 tsp salt to sprinkle on fish
- 2-3 tbsp cooking olive oil or butter
For the polenta:
- 720 ml water
- 3/4 tsp sea salt
- 180 g cornmeal fine or coarse
- 3 tbsp butter optional
- 4 tbsp Parmesan cheese optional
For the garlic sauce:
- 4-6 cloves garlic made into a paste
- 75 ml water
- 1 tbsp cider vinegar
- 2-3 sprigs fresh herbs (dill or parsley) to garnish
- Start by making sure your fish fillets are ready. If fish comes from frozen, take out of the freezer and thaw overnight in the fridge or placed in cold water for about 20 mins- 1 hour before cooking it. Since this it will be fried it has to be fairly dry so pat dry with kitchen towel and then salt lightly and set aside.
- Let's prepare the garlic sauce now which has to be ready when the fish and the polenta are already so the dish can be served hot immediately. And for this we need to peel and chop the garlic and place into the mortar with a generous pinch of sea salt. Make this into a paste, add the water and the vinegar and it's all good to go.
- Meanwhile start cooking the polenta, and for this you have to boil the water in a castiron or nonstick pot and add the salt. When the water begins to simmer, add slowly the cornmeal, whisking energetically to avoid lumps. The polenta will start thickening fairly quickly. You will have to keep whisking or stirring fairly often. It may form a crust which is not an issue. In the last minute of cooking stir in the butter and the Parmesan cheese if you choose to use or any other shredded cheese you may like and prefer. Mix until melted and well incorporated.
- While the polenta is cooking place a nonstick frying pan on medium heat, add some oil or butter and fry the slightly salted fish fillets. Fry as many as you can fit it in the pan 4-6 at once for about 3 min on each side and then take out on a plate. Repeat with the remainder of the fish fillets until all done.
- Once the polenta is ready, dish into four plates, place the pan fried sardine fillets over the soft polenta and drizzle 1 to 2 tablespoons of garlic sauce. Tuck in and fully enjoy. Feel totally free to add some more grated cheese over or even some 1-2 tbsp of yoghurt- a nice full fat Greek style yoghurt or creme fraiche.
To paste the garlic I’m using a Mortar and pestle (I am using this mortar). If you prefer your polenta to be denser, pour it into a dish, let it cool slightly for 10-15 mins and then cut/serve into chunks. But for a softer one which is my all time favourite, you will need to serve it scooped out immediately before it has hardened and top it up with these beautiful sardine fillets perfectly panfried and a beautiful garlic sauce. It can be a little tricky with the polenta to get it to the right texture and this is because it really depends on the cornflour/cornmeal as some ‘swallow' more water than others. You can always juggle with the water or the cornflour amounts. Don't panic! If you want it in a denser texture add more flour, and if it turned out denser than your liking then add some more boiling water (from a kettle) till you get it the right texture. It is all a learning process don’t worry. I don’t always get it the way I want it every time. This is also because there are so many types on the market and some are more starchy than others. One thing is certainn. the more you will be cooking it, the better will get. Just juggle with either water or the polenta flour till’s perfecto! ? Of course my suggestion would be if you do not like the garlic sauce then feel free to sprinkle with an indulgent amount of grated or shaved Parmesan cheese or any other cheese that you would like such a nice mature cheddar. I tell you what.... I LOVE it with feta cheese too. A lot 😉 I do both though as I can not give up on either the cheese nor the garlic. HA HA. Oh, I feel like dancing with joy already and yes I might need to hit the gym after so much cheese but... who cares, I’ll do whatever but cut any corners/cheese amounts on this dish. No wayyyy!! ;-)) Enjoy this delicious dish with a nice sea bass, makerel, sea bream, cod, fillet instead of sardines or whatever fish you prefer! Make it nice and crisp and it will be heaven.Yum!