Saturday, February 13, 2010

Cheesy Baked Polenta

Polenta is another fine comfort food for me. It's kind of peasant food, simple grains, fine cornmeal boiled into a gelatanous mush. Sound appetizing? It can be baked, grilled, fried or served plain, and it goes with a plethora of other ingredients quite easily. It's known as grits in the States, or mael pep in the Carribean, or many other names in Eastern Europe, but no matter how you serve it, it's still good ole comfort food.

In this case, I used instant polenta, as it's the only I've been able to find from even the bigger of the chain stores in Helsinki. It's quite fine, so it works better as the molded and baked or fried variety than the porridge type variety. It's so quick and easy to make!

I first prepared the polenta, with about 2:1 water:polenta ratio, but each variety may call for different cooking times and water ratios. Instead of plain water, I used vegetable stock, and before the gelatanous polenta could harden, I mixed in about 3/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.

Then, I spread the polenta thinly on a baking sheet, smoothing evenly with the back of a spoon, wetting the spoon if necessary to avoid sticking. The polenta should be about 1/2" to 1" thick. Let this cool, and put it in the refrigerator if there is room enough. Once chilled, it can be easily sliced into triangles or sticks for whatever you plan to do with it next.

For this, I used four cheeses to make a nice and rich dish. In a casserole dish, I layered a row of polenta slices first, topping with blue cheese, Koskenlaskija cheese (perinteinen versionn of the Finnish favorite), grated mozzerella and repeating a second layer, then topping the whole dish with about 1/2 cup of grated parmesan. I then baked at 175C for 3o minutes. The baked dish should cool a little, but then slices easily to make a simple but pleasant presentation.

Sorry in this case there are no exact measurements, as polentas vary from type and brand, and many different kinds of cheeses are suitable! I would also recommend using mascarpone instead of Koskenlaskija if you don't have any of that available. Crumbled feta might also give a nice salty flavor to add.

Buon Appetito!

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