Most Italians are familiar with the custom of eating polenta on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Lent begins, or for Carnevale. (Mardi Gras) However, the most well known preparation is with sauce and little meatballs or even Braciole. This is considered the Southern Italian method.
Northern Italy is also known for their polenta, using more butter and cream than the south. They often serve it with the game that is so prevalent in the woods of the North. POLENTA WITH GORGONZOLA is one such northern recipe. It hails from the Northern region of Lombardia. This is a smooth and creamy version and, even with the sharper cheese, is still a mild dish with subtle hints from the cheese. It is a wonderful dish to serve as a first course or as a side to game, poultry, sausage, or grilled meats. It is simply a beautiful preparation which polenta lovers must have in their arsenal.
Long considered peasant food, polenta is now considered a refined dish, offered in so many ways, by the most accomplished chefs and finest restaurants. These days, the instant polenta, is so good that it is no longer necessary to stir for hours with the “paiolo” – a long handled Italian paddle like tool. I remember, as a child, engaging in the long stirring process by standing on a chair taking my turn at the “paiolo”.
Fast forward to today, I have paired this cheesy polenta with mushrooms, sauteed quickly with butter, vinegar, and a touch of sugar, a kind of quick and easy agrodolce. The idea here is to add a touch of acidity and sweetness to counter the butter and cheese. This coupling results in excellent balance.
POLENTA WITH GORGONZOLA
Prep: about 30 minutes
8 oz. Sliced Mushrooms – Wild or Button
2 Tbsp. Butter
1 Tbsp. Balsamic Vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Package Instant Polenta (approx.9.2 oz.)
4 oz. Gorgonzola Dolce chopped – very mild and creamy (If you like sharper flavor, try Gorgonzola Mountain or a good Blue Cheese)
3 Tbsp. Butter
3/4 C. Heavy Cream, warmed
Salt and pepper to taste
Chopped Fresh Basil for garnish
Extra crumbled Gorgonzola for garnish (important to accent the flavor)
Saute the mushrooms in the butter, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper until caramelized and tender. Set aside.
Make your polenta just before serving for best results.
Prepare the polenta according to package directions. Remove from heat.
When polenta is ready and piping hot, stir in the gorgonzola and butter until melted in.
Then add the warmed cream and stir in quickly until incorporated. It should be very creamy.
Place in bowls and top with a few mushrooms on each serving.
Garnish with chopped basil and crumbled gorgonzola.
POLENTA WITH GORGONZOLA is best paired, in my view, with a light red wine like a Barbera or Valpolicella – both from the North of Italy where this polenta dish is traditionally served.
PARLA COME MANGI!
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LINDA’S ITALIAN TABLE