Zen and the Art of Sausage and Polenta Stuffing by Elizabeth The Intern

Our interns are cooking up a storm this Thanksgiving, all for your benefit. Earlier this week we had Kathryn’s Cauliflower Gratin and now, on the other end of the spectrum, we have Elizabeth with her Sausage and Polenta Stuffing. Please don’t judge her for her mistakes: remember, I built my fortune on incompetence! Without further ado, I present to you Elizabeth the Intern.


Two years ago I cohosted a Thanksgiving dinner. Most of the food turned out well, but one dish was by far the best, a sausage and polenta stuffing we had adapted from Gourmet’s 2005 Thanksgiving issue.

I did not make the stuffing that year.

Today I tried to make the stuffing. I will say I’ve had better ideas.

Since this is my first post, I should explain that I am, by nature, 1) anal, and 2) a baker. But I’m trying to become 1) relaxed, and 2) a cook. It is a constant battle. For example, I am presently trying to achieve a state of Zen by reading a book called Getting Things Done. I can’t get the baker out of me and tonight was no exception.

The battle began at Jewel Osco in Chicago. I couldn’t find polenta, and, what’s worse, I couldn’t explain what it was to any of the people who worked there. (“It’s corn meal, right?” “Um, I’m not sure. I don’t think so . . .” I said. Inner monologue: “It’s all over! The stuffing will never be right! Never!!!”


I came home with a roll of sliceable polenta. It seemed strange that the recipe suggested mixing this with six cups of water, but, hey, I’m trying to be relaxed, so I went along with it. I was going to post the picture of this, but I don’t want you to lose your appetite. I’ll suffice it to say that the texture was watery.

At this point my former cohost of Thanksgiving, Nick, came in and I was swearing like a sailor. What had I done wrong? I had followed the rules and been Zen! “Dear,” he said, “I think you were supposed to use this,” and he produced a container of quick-cooking polenta.

I started over from the beginning with the quick-cooking polenta and it all came out fine. However, I was saying things like, “This is the worst recipe. The worst.” But it was pretty tasty and would have been even better if the broiler hadn’t cut out just at the end. I probably stressed it out so much that it couldn’t perform its broiler functions anymore. We ate all the stuffing and it was pretty good, if I do say so myself.

Sausage and Polenta Stuffing adapted from Gourmet, November, 2005:


(1/4 cup) unsalted butter plus additional for buttering pans

6 1/2 cups water

2 teaspoons salt

2 cups quick-cooking polenta (11 oz)

1 lb sweet Italian sausage, casings discarded

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 large garlic clove, minced

2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth (16 fl oz)

1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (2 oz)

1/2 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley


1. Butter a 10×15 pan.

2. Follow the instructions for quick-cooking polenta. Add 3 tablespoons of butter and stir.

3. Spread the polenta in the baking pan and refrigerate until chilled, about 15 min.

4. Cook sausage over medium heat until no longer pink. Break up chunks. Remove to a large heat-safe bowl.

5. Brown the onions and sauté the garlic. Add ½ cup of water and add this mixture plus the chicken broth to the sausage bowl.

6. Preheat the broiler.

7. Melt 1 tablespoon butter with 1 tablespoon of oil in the skillet.

8. Remove polenta from fridge and cut half of it into 1/2-inch cubes. Toss this half with the butter mixture and remove the uncubed polenta to the sausage bowl.

9. Broil the polenta cubes 8 to 12 minutes until brown. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

10. Add broiled polenta cubes to sausage mixture. Add half the cheese, all the parsley and pepper to taste.

11. Pour into the baking pan. Sprinkle top with remaining cheese.

12. Cover with buttered foil, buttered side down, and cook about 20 minutes.

13. Remove foil and bake 15 minutes more or until brown. If it is still not brown, you might want to broil it for a minute or so.

14. Allow the dish to cool about 5 minutes before serving.

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