Real Men Eat Baked Polenta with Swiss Chard and Cheese
At Sunday's farmers market, I was given two bunches of swiss chard by Farmer Bob and was desperate to make something other than boring sauteed swiss chard.
I talked to David about making a swiss chard and bacon quiche and that idea was quickly rebuked. "Real men don't eat quiche," he replied to my obviously ridiculous suggestion.
So off I went to one of my favorite food websites, Epicurious (home of Bon Appetit, Gourmet and Self recipes, as well as a wealth of travel info and national restaurant reviews and much more...a great food resource), and found this recipe that got rave reviews. What really sealed the deal was that I had all the ingredients I needed to whip it up.
Many of the reviewers said this dish was even better the next day, so considering today is a wet, dreary and gloomy Monday in San Antonio, and since it's my day off, I can relax and cook, cook, cook.
This could certainly be a vegetarian entree or just as easily a side dish along with grilled steak, shrimp, Italian sausage (that's what we're having it with) or whatever you choose.
We think it would be quite spectacular served at brunch with a fried or poached egg on top. Or with some smoked salmon. Or, heck, just by itself with perfectly cooked bacon.
Baked Polenta with Swiss Chard and Cheese
Adapted by The Cowgirl Gourmet from a Nov. 2002 Bon Appetit recipe
This is an amazingly simple dish to put together and the yellow and green layers make it look fabulous when plated. And the crispy cheese on top adds both great texture and flavor. Actually, you could use whatever seasonal veggies you want such as sauteed mushrooms with spinach, sauteed kale and tomatoes. You get the idea...so be creative with your vegetable layer.
Makes 6 servings
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (evoo)
1/2 large yellow onion, diced
1 leek, washed, quartered and diced
2-3 garlic cloves, diced
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes
1 bunch swiss chard, thick stems and ribs removed, leaves cut cross-wise into 1/2 inch strips
2 cups spinach, chopped (optional)
3 1/2 cups water
1 teaspooon salt
1 cup polenta (coarse cornmeal) or yellow cornmeal (this can be found in the bulk sections of your better grocer or on the baking aisle
1 farm fresh egg, beaten
2 cups low-fat or part-skim mozzarella cheese, grated (about 8 ounces)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a 2-quart baking dish (I used a round glass baking dish with a lid). Heat oil in a heavy deep skillet over medium heat. Add onion and leek sauteing until tender, about 10-15 minutes. During the cooking process, sprinkle a dash of Kosher salt over the veggies to extract the liquids.
Stir in garlic and crushed red pepper, then add the chard (and spinach, if using). Cook until chard (and/or spinach) is tender, about 6-8 minutes. Stir until any excess liquid evaporates and season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Meanwhile, bring 3 1/2 cups of water and salt to boil in a heavy saucepan. Gradually stir polenta into boiling water, reducing heat to modeium-low. Simmer until polenta is very thick, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Sprinkle 1/3 cup of mozzarella cheese in the polenta and stir until melted. Taste the polenta and add a little salt if necessary, and definitely add some freshly ground pepper.
Beat the egg in a bowl and whisk in one cup of hot polenta. Stir mixture thoroughly and add back in saucepan with the rest of the polenta and stir to combine.
Spread half of the polenta mixture in baking dish. Next layer half of the swiss chard (and spinach) mixture, and then top with half of the mozzarella. Repeat layering process with remaining polenta, swiss chard and cheese.
Bake until puffed and brown on top, about 45 minutes. You may want to put it briefly under the broiler to get the cheese extra golden and bubbly.
Cool 30 minutes (this is an important step, so be patient) and then serve.