Polenta Gratin with Goat Cheese Sauce
So, as I am writing this I am wondering how the trip to Paris will turn out to be. I have been there before and know I love the city but there are things that interfere. One thing is the excessive smoking everywhere. When I was there in the spring I was looking forward to sitting outdoors at sidewalk cafes but the reality was that I couldn’t. The tables are very close together and people all around me were smoking. Impossible. I am allergic to smoke and cannot sit in a smoke-filled environment breathing in the stuff. So I had to move indoors in most cafes, where smoking is not allowed. Now that it’s cold outside I think many of the cafes only serve inside so that should eliminate the problem to a certain extent. We’ll see once I get there.
I really look forward to interacting with the French. I find them so friendly and they go out of their way to help you and communicate with you in english or French. One time I had to ask for directions and the person I asked walked me all the way to a bus, gave me a ticket for the bus and sent me on my way with specific directions. He was also a lawyer. Another person walked me to my destination, to make sure I got there. I need to pay it forward.
I have contacted a Parisian blogger named Rosa Jackson of Edible Adventures • Paris • Nice and Beyond, a Canadian born food writer, author and cooking teacher based in Nice and Paris. For a fee she will plan a custom itinerary for you that will perfectly match your Parisian desires. I have asked her for just such itinerary (for walking) that would include markets, cheese shops, bakeries, patisseries, kitchen shops, restaurants and more. She prepared a detailed itinerary that I can do over a couple of days or longer. The package included maps for all of the areas, with the places on the itinerary marked on each map. Her suggested itinerary included all kinds of fun personal observations and suggestion, noted when places are open or closed and was overall fun and inspiring. I can’t wait. Rosa said Paris is most beautiful at Christmas and I hope she is right.
So what’s cooking in my kitchen? This time it’s polenta. Polenta is an Italian dish as you know and I love making it. It is good soft or firm and I particularly like it in gratin style dishes. Crispy on top, soft inside with a cheesy crust and herb notes, what could be better. I wrote about polenta here and here so I won’t repeat it in this post.
Basic Polenta Ingredients:
1 cup polenta style cornmeal
4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup grated Parmesan.
Basic Polenta Directions:
Bring the water to a boil, add the salt and then add the cornmeal by a slow and steady drizzle, mixing constantly. Reduce heat to very low, cover and continue cooking about 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until polenta is cooked through. The polenta is done when it pulls away from the sides of the pot.
Remove from heat, add butter and mix well. Add cheese and mix into the polenta until melted.
Pour the polenta into a lightly oiled large baking sheet and smooth out the top by tilting the pan to even out the distribution, about 1/2 inch thick. You may not need to use the entire surface of the pan.
Refrigerate the polenta until it sets. You can refrigerate it overnight as well and proceed with the recipe the next day.
Ingredients For the gratin:
1 recipe basic baked polenta (see above)
2 cups cream
2 cloves garlic, crushed but kept whole
1 cup goat cheese
1 tablespoon hot sauce optional
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1/3 cup grated parmesan for topping
Chopped flat leaf parsley for garnish
Directions for the gratin:
Prepare polenta according to the basic baked polenta recipe. Once the polenta is cold cut it into shapes (2X2 inch squares as pictured, or rounds).
Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with non-stick oil. Place polenta squares on the baking sheet. I put the top side down so the moist side is facing up. Bake in a 400℉ oven about 10-15 minutes until top is crisp golden. Turn the polenta slices oc=ver once to crisp the other side.
Remove from oven and arrange polenta slices in a gratin dish in slightly overlapping rows.
Bring cream and garlic to a boil in a small pot. Continue cooking at a slow boil until cream is reduce to about 1.5 cups .
Lower heat to a simmer, remove garlic and add the goat cheese, stirring until melted. Remove from heat and pour sauce over the polenta in the gratin dish.
Sprinkle grated parmesan and chopped parsley and bake at 400℉ for a few minutes, watching carefully, until the sauce is bubbling and the top of the gratin is crisp and golden in spots.
Serve immediately, garnished with chopped parsley.