Quick Chicken Ragu with Polenta

I almost forgot today was my wedding anniversary – well, I didn’t quite forget, but was a bit confused whether it was today or in 2 days… My youngest daughter kindly reminded me that it was today.  To save my embarrassment from my inadequate brain cells, I made this dinner (recipe from the “Gourmet Italian Kitchen” magazine).  Don’t be fooled by “quick” part in the name.  It’s not complicated at all, however, it’s not quick.  It takes average time, but unless you buy everything pre-chopped, it ain’t quick!
I have been rather tired today, but my cooking days are numbered as the warmer weather moves in.  In case you are not familiar with my pattern, I go into cooking hibernation during the Summer (exception of little cooking here and there).  Therefore, I’m trying to fit in as many recipes while the weather is still cool and my desire and stamina last!

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Serves:4

2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup diced pancetta
1 Tablespoon finely chopped sage
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped rosemary
1 1/2 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1 cup light dry red wine (I used a Pinot Noir)
1 – 14 or 15 oz can diced tomatoes in juice, drained (I used the ones with basil and garlic added)
Sea salt & black pepper

Heat the oil and butter in a 12 inch skillet (2 inches deep) over medium heat until hot but not smoking, then add pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally (about 2 minutes).
Add sage and rosemary and cook, stirring 30 seconds.  Add chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken is no longer pink on outside, 2-3 minutes.  Add onion, carrot, and celery and cook, stirring until softened, 5-7 minutes.
Add wine and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until liquid is reduced to about 1 cup, about 10 minutes.  Add tomatoes, sea salt, and pepper and simmer, stir until sauce is thickened, 5-10 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper. 
**Ragu can be made 1 day ahead and cooled completely, uncovered, then chilled, covered.

Simple Polenta: Give yourself about an hour for this!!

Bring 8 cups water to a boil with 2 teaspoons salt in a 4 quart heavy pot, then add 2 cups polenta (not the quick cooking) or yellow cornmeal in a thin stream, whisking.  Cook over medium heat, whisking 2 minutes.  Reduce heat to low and simmer polenta, covered, stirring for 1 minute after every 10 minutes of cooking (a long handled wooden spoon is helpful for this), 45 minutes total.  Remove from heat and keep covered. 

Polenta will stay warm and creamy for about 20 minutes, but will begin to thicken and solidify if it stands longer.  With any left overs, just slice and pan fry!!
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My opinion: I accompanied this dish with oven roasted baby vegetables (drizzle olive oil and sprinkle sea salt, 400F for 20-25 minutes).   I usually don’t like polenta, but now I see why this type of ragu are eaten with polenta!  So tasty, and I don’t know if this makes sense, but it tastes of the “old country”… even though I’m not an Italian, makes me want to “go home”!!!
Tomorrow night I will be re-heating the ragu, and eating it with mashed potato!

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