Saturday, November 20, 2010

polenta with walnuts and gorganzola

Many of you have been asking me why I haven't posted for so long. Well, the truth of it is I am in mourning. My lovely, magical camera was stolen and I didn't want you all to know that I actually am not a very good photographer, it was all the magic camera's doing.

Two: As most of you know at this point, I have gotten myself knocked up. Though I'm luckier than most and this hasn't turned me off eating one bit, it has had the unfortunate effect of moving my bedtime up significantly to, say, 7:30 or 8pm. Well, this leaves very little time for culinary adventures to say the least.

However! I have gotten my hands on a simple little point and shoot and though it doesn't do any tricks or display brilliant colors, it will just have to do to impart to what the food that I'm describing looks like. Unfortunately, for this recipe, I wasn't able to get any photos, so you'll just have to use your imagination!

So, on that note, last week I catered a cocktail party for 60 people. Simple appetizers, but a little special, just because I like to show off. With the fantastic help of sous-chefs Thomas and Lindsey, we made crostini with goat cheese and peach thyme preserves, caprese pops, mini curried chicken pot pies, cucumber carpaccio with smoked salmon mousse, strawberries with marscapone mousse, and polenta bites with walnuts and gorganzola.

I had a hard time decided which I was going to cover in this post, but the polenta is a dish that I think is truly special (and, another favorite adjective, EASY). This is a dish that my mother made, an excellent side dish that was easily converted as a left over.

The dish can be prepared in two ways, with fresh polenta (which shares the consistency of grits or cream of wheat) or with pre-prepared polenta which will have already "solidified" (I say this because I can't think of another way to describe it...) and can be sliced. With the fresh polenta you simply want to cook your semolina (as you would oatmeal) and pour it into your casserole dish, then you sprinkle walnuts and gorganzola on top and finish in the oven. If you don't finish this dish on the first night, then the polenta will "solidify" and you can revive the dish by following the "version 2".

This is the perfect side dish to a rich Chicken Marsala or even a simple grilled steak and the simplicity of it all allows two of my favorite flavors to shine (blue cheese and walnuts).

polenta with walnuts and gorganzola

 version 1
serves four with leftovers

1 cup polenta (or corn meal)
4 cups water
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dried thyme or rosemary (optional)

1 cup crumbled gorganzola
1 cup roughly chopped walnuts
salt and pepper for seasoning

-Bring water and salt to boil, slowly whisk in the polenta and stir constantly, cook over medium/medium-low
-Cook until it thickens and pulls away from the pan (about 15 minutes for instant polenta, 30-40 minutes for cornmeal). Stir in thyme/rosemary if using.
- Pour polenta into a casserole/oven-safe serving dish
- sprinkle cheese and walnuts evenly, season with salt and pepper.
- Broil 5-10 minutes, until walnuts are toasted and cheese starts to brown slightly.

Version 2
you will need an additional 4 Tbsp olive oil for this version

If using pre-packaged polenta:
-cut it into 1/2 inch slices
-dip the slices quickly into olive oil
- broil slices for 10 minutes, flipping once 
- top each slice with walnuts and cheese
- broil for 5 minutes more.

If using leftovers of version one:
- cut remaining polenta into 1"x1" or 1"x2" pieces
- heat oil in pan, fry bottom of polenta for 10- 15 minutes on medium-low heat (be very careful, it might stick)
- broil for 5 minutes to brown the top.

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