I really need to have more polenta in my life. I'm not sure why I never think about making it, or why it hasn't found it's way into my my pasta and rice rotation. It's a perfect base for all kinds of flavors. The last time I had it, a very traditional ragu was sitting on top. Unfortunately, that dish takes hours and hours to make. I wanted something satisfying and rich without requiring too much time.
Luckily I found this relatively easy recipe from Epicurious. The mixture of kale, mushroom and bacon combine to create an earthy topping that tastes a lot heavier than it probably is. In fact, upon sampling it toward the end of the cooking, I became concerned it was a little too heavy. That's until I remembered the lemon zest, added at the last moment. It's a remarkable addition that elevates the dish, making it more aromatic and, somehow, feel more light.
- 1/2 pound kale, stemmed, and roughly chopped
- 2 cups milk
- 1 3/4 cups water
- 1 cup polenta
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 ounces pancetta or bacon, chopped
- 2 ounces mushrooms (crimini, oyster, or shiitake), sliced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/4 cup chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
- 1/2 tablespoon grated lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Add the milk, water, polenta, salt and pepper to a large pot over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, whisking constantly, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thick.
Meanwhile, bring a medium-sized pot of water to a boil. Add the kale and cook for about 6 minutes. Drain the kale in a colander.
Dump the bacon into a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until they are crisp, about 3 minutes. Remove the bacon. Add the sliced mushrooms to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they become tender, about 6 minutes.
Add the kale, cooked bacon, garlic, and chicken broth. Bring to a boil and let reduce for about 5 minutes. Then turn off the heat and add the thyme and lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Add the butter and Parmesan to the pot with the polenta. Stir until combined. Then spoon some of the polenta onto a plate and then top with the mushroom and kale.