Sunday, October 4, 2009

Polenta Stuffed with Spicy Greens and Cheese

I’ve only recently discovered my love for polenta. I forget exactly what we ordered, but when Colin and I visited Savannah in May, we had one of my top ten meals ever at The Pink House. A beautiful square of fried polenta accompanied one of our appetizers. I bit into its yellow, crunchy, creamy goodness and was hooked. Just last month, I ordered the grilled shrimp at the Brewster Fish House (again, what I ordered isn’t on the menu), solely for the polenta cake it came with.

I haven’t yet ventured in making polenta at home. It seems so easy, but I’m terrified that I’d mess up and ruin my polenta taste buds for life.


Polenta Stuffed with Spicy Greens and Cheese 
serves 8

11 cups water
2 2/3 cups coarse-ground cornmeal (polenta)
6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 bunch chard, triple washed, stems separated, stems thinly sliced and leaves sliced 1/2” wide
1 bunch beet greens, triple washed, stems discarded, leaves sliced 1/2” wide
1 cup red wine
2 teaspoons chili flakes or more to your taste
8 oz. caciocavallo + more for garnish (aged provolone is a good substitute, or try smoked mozzarella)


1. Bring the water to a boil in a large soup pot and add 5 teaspoons of salt. Whisk in the cornmeal in a thin, slow stream. Stir continuously for 2 minutes. Cover and reduce heat to a lively simmer. Stir one minute out of every minutes for a total of forty minutes, then uncover and cook for five more minutes. It should be creamy and thick at this point. Keep it hot until you are ready to assemble the dish, otherwise it will set up.
2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over a medium high flame. Fry the onion and garlic for 1 minute. Add the thinly sliced chard stems and saute for 3 minutes. Add the leaves. It is ok if they are still wet. You may have to add them in batches to get them all in the pot, waiting til the first bunch “melts” a little. Add the chili flakes, red wine and 1 teaspoon of salt. Stir, cover, reduce heat to low and cook until they are fully tender. Taste and adjust salt and chili flakes.
3. Grease a 13” x 18” half-sheet pan (aka jelly roll pan). Pour in half of the polenta and spread it into an even layer. Top with the sauteed greens (leaving behind any excess liquid) and the Caciocavallo cheese, distributing them as evenly as possible. Cover with the remaining polenta and use a spatula to form an even layer. 
4. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to chill until the polenta has set up firm, at least a couple of hours.
5. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Slice into squares and then triangles. Brush on the remaining olive oil. This will seem like a lot but we are trying to encourage the top to crisp up. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes until heated through (a thermometer should read at least 160°F.) Now turn on the broiler and cook until you’ve got nice brown spots all over the top, watching carefully to avoid burning.

The mixture of beet greens and chardworks great, but feel free to substitute kale, collard greens, mustard greens or any other greens you fancy. I served the polenta with roasted beets, then made a sauce from the liquid left over from cooking the greens reduced with saba (also known as mosto cotto, or the cooked grape syrup rendered in the first step of balsamic vinegar production). This recipe serves a crowd—you can easily cut it in half. To serve the polenta in neat triangles, you’ll need a shallow pan of the appropriate dimension.

Picture and recipe from Serious Eats

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