Parmesan Polenta with Braised Greens and Fonduta

Polenta is really versatile. This dish can be served as an appetizer and, for variety, the polenta can be grilled as well. There are thousands of combinations that are possible with polenta: from this book, try it with the tomato marmalade (recipe in cookbook) or in place of the cannelloni with the three cheeses, spinach and tomato sauce (recipe in cookbook). Paired with New Zealand spinach, an arrowhead-shaped leaf that is heartier than regular spinach, and fonduta, an Italian cheese sauce traditionally made with Fontina cheese, the polenta is a delicious winter dish. Serve it with cooked baby carrots tossed in butter.

3 cups (750 mL) whole milk
3 cups (750 mL)water
1 cup (240 mL) instant polenta
5/8 cups (150 mL) unsalted butter
1/2 cup (120 mL) grated Parmesan cheese + 1 oz (30g) for garnish
2 Tbsp (30mL) olive oil

PARMESAN POLENTA: Lightly oil a shallow 7 × 11 inch (17.5 × 30 cm) dish. In a large pot fitted with a lid, combine the milk and water and bring them to a boil on medium heat. Slowly whisk in the polenta, reduce the heat to low
and cover and cook for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the polenta no longer looks grainy. Add the butter, Parmesan
cheese and a generous pinch of salt. Mix thoroughly and taste, and adjust the seasoning as required.

Pour the polenta into the lightly oiled dish to a depth of 1/2 inch (1 cm). Refrigerate the polenta until it is cool, about 1 hour. Once the polenta has set, invert the dish onto a cutting board. With a 3-inch/7.5-cm round cookie cutter (or a glass), cut 8 polenta discs and set aside. Will keep refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

2 cups (500 mL) whipping cream
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
5/8 cup (150 mL) grated Parmesan cheese
3 oz (85 g) soft goat cheese 

CHEESE FONDUTA: Combine the cream, thyme and bay leaf in a small pot on medium heat. When the mixture comes to a boil, turn off the heat and allow the liquid to infuse for 15 minutes.

Combine the Parmesan and goat cheeses in a medium bowl. Pour the warm cream mixture over the cheeses, whisking constantly until the cheeses have melted and the sauce is well combined. Season lightly with salt, then strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean bowl, discarding the solids, and set aside.

2 (30 mL) Tbsp olive oil
2 shallots, thinly sliced
2 cups (480 mL) mixed greens (such as rapini, broccolini, New Zealand or regular spinach, kale), picked of heavy stems, washed and dried
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp (5 mL) chopped fresh rosemary
3 Tbsp (45 mL) vegetable stock

BRAISED GREENS: Place the olive oil and shallots in a sauté pan on medium heat and sauté until the shallots are lightly golden, about 3 minutes. Add the greens, garlic and rosemary, tossing well, then pour in the vegetable stock. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes to allow the flavours to develop. Remove from the heat.


FINISH POLENTA: Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan on medium heat. Once the pan is hot, add the polenta
rounds (you might have to do this in two batches) and cook them for 4 to 5 minutes on each side, until they are
golden brown and heated through. Transfer them to paper towels to drain.

TO SERVE: Place a large spoonful of the fonduta on each of 4 large plates. Top the fonduta with a round of polenta, an
eighth of the greens and a second piece of polenta. Divide the remaining greens on top of the polenta rounds and generously drizzle each serving with the fonduta. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese. Serves 4

This dish begs for Italian reds, like good-quality Valpolicella, Barbera or Aglianico.