Saturday, March 27, 2010

Mămăligă cu brânză şi smântână

Mămăligă cu brânză şi smântână (Mămăligă with Romanian feta cheese and sour cream) is a Romanian traditional dish that resembles polenta. What makes it different and unique is the Romanian feta cheese, typically made with sheep's milk, and that it's typically stirred in the pot as the mămăligă is being cooked.

My friend Daniel and I decided to try making this tonight when he found the brânză (Romanian feta cheese) at Harmony Mediterranean Market in Cary. When I told him I had stone-ground cornmeal, he immediately requested that we try making mămăligă.

Here is the recipe we tried. I suppose it must have been successful because he said the smell, consistency, and taste is how he remembered it when he was in Romania last summer.

3-1/2 cups water
Salt, to taste
1 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into bits
Brânză (Romanian feta cheese), crumbled into bits
salt, pepper, and sour cream to taste
1 egg, fried over-easy (optional)

Combine the water and salt in a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons of the cornmeal in a steady stream and whisk until the water returns to boiling. Gradually add the rest of the cornmeal, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to low and cook the mixture, covered, until thickened and cooked through, 10 minutes.

Add in the butter, a piece at a time, stirring constantly. Add the brânză and continue stirring until the mixture leaves the sides of the pan, about 5 minutes more.

We served it right out of the pot. We placed the mămăligă on a serving plate, added more brânză, salt and pepper to taste, a dollop of sour cream, and topped it with the fried egg. It was served with 'Salata de roșii cu brânză' (tomato and cheese salad).

It was my first exposure to Romanian food. By Daniel's expression, I believe we managed to get it about right.

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