I still remember the best polenta I’ve ever eaten. It was Natal Day, 2010 and I was invited to Maurizio and Stephanie’s house for a BBQ. I can vividly recall the beautifully laid outdoor table – the pretty light-purple Italian tablecloth – platters of food set-out, waiting to be enjoyed – guests mingling with flutes of Prosecco in their hands. I wandered through the backyard in the dusky orange glow of the setting sun, to Maurizio at the helm of the grill, turning fat golden squares of white polenta. Caramel coloured and crispy on the outside – fluffy, delicate and white on the inside – I knew that this was something special.
Since that day, I’ve scanned the shelves at the grocery stores hoping to find white cornmeal. I gave up, thinking that yellow would continue to be my only option. And then, last week, out of the blue, something caught my eye on a lower shelf at Sobey’s. Goya’s Masarepa White Corn Meal – had I finally found what I had been looking for? The answer is yes.
Now, on a side note, it’s no secret that I love bacon – in fact I’ve become somewhat notorious amongst family, friends and co-workers. I can’t help it. I love, not only the flavour of bacon, but pork in general – ham, prosciutto, pancetta, pork tenderloin, porchetta – the list goes on. I decided that this year, instead of always making someone else’s recipe and blogging about it, I wanted to make up my own recipes – and I wanted to start the New Year off right with a post that includes my most beloved ingredient.
This recipe is not for the faint of heart, however, it is a rich flavourful dish that is EASY to make – a great appetizer that will definitely impress your friends the next time it’s your turn for a dinner party!!
Polenta with Porcini Port Sauce, Gorgonzola and Pancetta (serves 8 – 20 minutes)
3 Cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 Cup instant (pre-cooked) white polenta
2 Tbsp butter
Grated Parmigiano (optional)
~ Boil water and salt – add polenta in thin steady stream whisking entire time – whisk one minute – remove from heat – add butter and Parmigiano – cover cookie sheet with Saran – spread polenta onto cookie sheet to about 1/2 inch thickness – cool
1.5 Cups 35% Whipping Cream
3 oz Port (I use Private Stock – it’s cheap and it tastes amazing in sauces)
2 Handfuls of dried Porcini mushrooms
1-2 Cups of boiling water
2 oz Gorgonzola + extra for garnish
salt and pepper to taste
8 Pancetta slices, cooked crispy
~ in a small bowl, just cover dried mushrooms with boiling water to reconstitute – let sit about 10 minutes
~ pour whipping cream into small saucepan – bring to a light boil – add Port and 3 oz of the mushroom water – bring to a light boil – add mushrooms and Gorgonzola – stir occasionally until Gorgonzola is melted then let sit without stirring until bubbly, thick and toffee-coloured – season with salt and pepper to taste
~ while your sauce is reducing you can cut your polenta into any shape you like – I used a round biscuit cutter. You can either pan-sear, grill or bake your polenta, or you can serve it cool. Top with sauce – garnish with small bit of Gorgonzola and a pancetta crisp. Serve.