Did you sleep through Act I? Philistine.
Do a little dance. Make a little love. Make polenta tonight.
Braised meats just get better with time. Not excessive amounts of time – I wouldn’t eat a brisket more than 3 or 4 years old – since that would probably cause, you know, rotting. But an extra day or few really brings all the flavors together. So if I’m going to spend a whole afternoon or evening braising*, I try to make sure there’s extra in the pot to make a re-appearance later in the week.
*Lest it be thought that braising is onerous, most of this time is typically spent napping. I am very lazy.
The lamb shanks braised in Act I were the size of my head (my head is big), so there were lots of pickins’ after the eating was done. I saved the shredded lamb along with some of the sauce, having already formulated a plan for its re-purposing based on some miscellaneous veg in the fridge with known sweet spots for lamb: eggplant and mushrooms.
P-O-L-E-N-T-A, and polenta was it’s name-o.
Behold the leftovers that will make your co-workers think you’re really fancy when you bring them in for lunch: eggplant, lamb and mushroom ragout over polenta. If you let the polenta cool in a pan and then cut it into shapes and fry it, you gain +7 fancy, which is enough to defeat a level 2 dragon lord who’s ordering lunch in.
The polenta takes about 5 minutes to make, and the ragout is little more than sauteed veg with some reduced wine (also leftover, from the original braise) and the leftover shredded lamb mixed in. It retains the yumminess of the original, and the meatiness of the eggplant and shrooms fills out the lamb shreds. Adding in some of the wine ups the flavor a little more, and the polenta adds texture (from the corn) and some salty punch (from the cheese) that keeps the dish from being a bowl of sweetish mush.
So braise some lamb. Or beef. Or pork. Make extra. Throw the leftovers in a pan with some veg. Make some polenta, or grits, or event mashed potatoes. And go forth to defeat the dragon lord.
Eggplant, Lamb and Mushroom Ragout with Polenta
For the ragout:
1-2 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium eggplant
8 oz. mixed mushrooms (or your favorite shroom)
1 1/2 c. red wine (preferably, left over from the original braise)
2 c. shredded braised lamb and sauce
1/4 c. stock (optional)
Set a large skillet over medium heat. While the pan is heating, peel and dice the eggplant and slice the mushrooms. Add the olive oil and veg to the pan. Sautee until the eggplant is mostly cooked through and all the veg has started to brown, about 10 minutes. Pour in the wine, stir to combine, and let the wine reduce until it’s almost a glaze on the veg. Add the leftover lamb and sauce. If things aren’t looking sauce-y enough for you, add some stock. Simmer together for 5 minutes to combine all the flavors. You can eat this immediately, but like the original braise, it tastes better the next day.
For the polenta:
1 c. polenta
3 1/2 c. chicken stock, veg stock or water
4 tbsp. butter
2 oz. italian cheese of your choice, grated (i like a sharp Romano)
s&p to taste
Bring the stock to a boil. Once it hits a boil, begin sprinkling the polenta in a little at a time, whisking constantly. Once all the polenta is in, keep whisking until the mixture reaches a paste-like consistency. Take the polenta off the heat and stir in the butter, cheese, and s&p. The polenta will continue to firm as it sits.
Serve immediately, or cool and fry: Spread the finished polenta 1/2 inch thick in a sheet pan; chill until the polenta is set, at least 2 hours. Cut into shapes, either freehand or with cookie cutters. Fry the pieces in a thin layer of olive oil over medium-high heat until golden and crisp on the outside.