Kitchen Curious: Get scrappy with scrapple

Griddled Polenta Scrapple, a recipe from “One Good Dish” by David Tanis (Artisan Books, 2013), offers some Italian flavors. CONTRIBUTED BY GENTL & HYERS
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Griddled Polenta Scrapple, a recipe from “One Good Dish” by David Tanis (Artisan Books, 2013), offers some Italian flavors. CONTRIBUTED BY GENTL & HYERS

My mom likes to remind my siblings and me that she grew up poor. Food and mealtimes offer occasion for her to recount her penniless Iowa upbringing.

When we celebrated the holidays with her in December, she turned a conversation about who in the family has an affinity for hot dogs into a woe is me moment: “We ate hot dogs all the time because that’s all we had,” Mom said.

Cornmeal presents more opportunities for my mom to wax poetic about her days of poverty. In her house, they used to fry leftover cornbread in lard then pour maple syrup over it. That was breakfast. They called it cornmeal mush. Cue the violin.

Scrapple is another fried cornmeal variation my mom associates with hard times. Rather than griddle baked cornbread, the cornmeal is cooked like polenta on the stovetop, mixed with some sort of meaty ingredient such as pork sausage, transferred to a dish to cool and set, then cut into wedges and fried.

Caption
Griddled Polenta Scrapple is a recipe from “One Good Dish” by David Tanis (Artisan Books, 2013). CONTRIBUTED BY GENTL & HYERS

Griddled Polenta Scrapple is a recipe from “One Good Dish” by David Tanis (Artisan Books, 2013). CONTRIBUTED BY GENTL & HYERS
Caption
Griddled Polenta Scrapple is a recipe from “One Good Dish” by David Tanis (Artisan Books, 2013). CONTRIBUTED BY GENTL & HYERS

David Tanis recounts in his “One Good Dish” (Artisan Books, 2013) that scrapple is a traditional Pennsylvania Dutch favorite and that the dish is featured on menus throughout the mid-Atlantic states. The variation that he offers in his cookbook brings Italian flavors into the picture: Spicy Italian fennel sausages, fresh rosemary and Parmesan cheese are all stirred into the cooked polenta before it gets set into a pie plate, refrigerated until firm, then fried in a cast-iron skillet.

Cornmeal might be a cheap ingredient, but it makes for mighty fine eating.

Caption
Scrapple starts with a pot of cooked polenta, made with cornmeal. LIGAYA FIGUERAS / LIGAYA.FIGUERAS@AJC.COM

Scrapple starts with a pot of cooked polenta, made with cornmeal. LIGAYA FIGUERAS / LIGAYA.FIGUERAS@AJC.COM
Caption
Scrapple starts with a pot of cooked polenta, made with cornmeal. LIGAYA FIGUERAS / LIGAYA.FIGUERAS@AJC.COM

Griddled Polenta Scrapple

Griddled Polenta Scrapple
  • 4 cups water, more as needed
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup stone-ground polenta (cornmeal)
  • 1 pound spicy Italian sausages or pork sausage
  • 2 teaspoons chopped rosemary
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Olive oil
  • All-purpose flour for dusting
  • Bring the water to a boil in a large, heavy saucepan. Add 2 teaspoons salt. Whisk in the polenta and stir well. After a minute or two, when the polenta has thickened a bit, reduce the heat to low and let cook gently, stirring occasionally, for about 45 minutes, until the grains have swollen and no raw cornmeal taste remains. (If the polenta gets too dry, add a little more water from time to time. I used an additional 1/2 cup water, stirring in about 3 tablespoons each time.)
  • Meanwhile, cook the sausage: Heat a wide skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage meat (casings removed if purchased) and let it brown, using a spatula to crumble it into rough pieces, until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Set aside at room temperature while the polenta finishes cooking.
  • When the polenta is done, add the sausage, along with the rosemary and Parmesan, stirring well to combine. Taste a spoonful of the mixture (let it cool first, so you don’t burn your mouth), then adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Spread the mixture onto a lightly oiled baking sheet or pie pan (use olive oil) to a depth of 3/4 inch. Cool until a skin forms on top, then cover with plastic wrap and let firm up in the refrigerator, preferably overnight.
  • Heat a large cast-iron griddle or skillet over medium-high heat. Add a thin layer of olive oil. Cut the scrapple into wedges and dust lightly with flour on both sides. Put the wedges “skin” side down on the griddle. Cook gently until nicely browned and crisp, about 4 to 5 minutes, then flip and cook on the other side. Serves 4.

Nutritional information

Per serving: (using Italian sausage) - 762 calories (percent of calories from fat, 55), 27 grams protein, 58 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams fiber, 46 grams fat (16 grams saturated), 94 milligrams cholesterol, 1,023 milligrams sodium.

Excerpted from “One Good Dish” by David Tanis (Artisan Books), copyright © 2013.

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