Bacon Bourbon Polenta Hearts

Bacon Bourbon Polenta Hearts
Valentine’s Day is only a few days away. Have you decided what to do for your Valentine? My valentine is a big fan of chocolate, especially when peanut butter is involved, so I know exactly what to do. In this sugar filled holiday, what do you do if your valentine lacks a sweet tooth and prefers more of the bacon and bourbon flavors?
Well Sally has a solution for you. Why not make them Bacon Bourbon Polenta Hearts? You can make the polenta on February 13th and let it cool overnight. At any point on the 14th, you can cut out the heart shapes, cook them for a few minutes on each side and serve up a hot meal for your bacon and bourbon loving Valentine! Serve them with eggs for a “hearty” Valentine’s Day breakfast in bed. If you are celebrating in the evening, heart shaped polenta is the perfect side to a tender steak.
Here is the recipe Sally Made
Bacon Bourbon Polenta Hearts
Serves 12
one pound bacon
1/3 cup finely chopped yellow onions
4 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/3 cup bourbon
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon coarse grind black pepper
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco
1 1/4 cups yellow corn meal ( not self rising)
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup ground parmesan cheese
1. Cut or chop the uncooked bacon into 1 inch pieces. Put the bacon in a  large nonstick skillet and cook, stirring frequently, on medium high heat until the bacon pieces are cooked and crisp. Remove the skillet from the heat. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and drain on paper towels. Remove all but 1 Tablespoon of the bacon drippings from the pan. Put the onions into the skillet and cook, stirring frequently, over medium heat, until the onions are translucent. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.
2.In a large heavy bottomed pot, add the chicken stock, bourbon, salt, pepper and Tabasco. Bring the stock mixture to a boil. Sprinkle the cornmeal, 1/4 cup at a time, while stirring constantly, into the stock mixture. Sprinkle and stir until all the cornmeal is absorbed into the stock mixture. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook the polenta, stirring frequently, for about 15 minutes or until the polenta resembles thick porridge. Remove the polenta from the heat.
3. Add the parmesan cheese to the polenta. Stir until blended. Add 5 Tablespoons of butter to the polenta and stir until mixed. Set aside and let the polenta cool for about 5 minutes. While the polenta is cooling, butter a 9X13 inch pan with the remaining 1 Tablespoon of butter. Chop the reserved cooked bacon into small pieces.
4. Add the bacon and reserved onions to the polenta mixture. Stir until blended. Pour the polenta into the prepared pan. Spread evenly over the bottom of the pan.

Cool the polenta until it is room temperature. Cover the polenta with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator until the polenta is cold and very firm. With a cookie cutter, cut the polenta into hearts or other desired shapes. Cook polenta over medium heat in a nonstick skillet until golden brown on both sides and warm in the center. Serve the polenta hearts warm or at room temperature.

Recipe ©Sally James Mathis

Photography ©Taylor Mathis

Here is more on the picture Taylor took.

Bacon Bourbon Polenta Hearts_picture

Above is a set shot and the final image of the heart-shaped polenta. When Sally and I were talking about the concept of what to get your Valentine who prefers savory to sweet, we knew that we wanted some kind of heart-shaped final dish. After tossing around a couple of ideas we turned to polenta. Polenta’s ability to be molded and cut into any shape made it the perfect food to work with.

For the styling and propping of the photo, I wanted to convey the Valentine’s Day theme, but in a slightly more masculine way. I played off of the fact that polenta is cooked in a pan, and chose a bold red and white cloth background with a small cast iron pan. The cast iron pan was the perfect size for my heart-shaped cookie cutter.

I backlit the shot with artificial lighting and filled in the shadows with a white reflector. If you want to learn more about how I took the shot, you can see the techniques I used in photographing FOOD.

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