This is a dish which defines for me cold weather comfort eating!
Large discs of polenta are layered and baked in the oven until the Parmesan and butter form a brown, crunchy crust.
Served with a generous ladle of chunky tomato sauce.
Here, I’ve added semi-dried tomatoes (the ones sometimes called “mi-cuit” or “slow roast” not the ones preserved in oil) snipped into small pieces, but you could also use fried, chopped mushrooms or some finely chopped wilted (and very well-drained!) leaf spinach.
I made fresh tomato sauce made from a glut of very ripe, cheap tomatoes earlier this year which I froze in handy portions. ready to dip into in the winter when fresh (green house) tomatoes have no taste.
Instead, use a 400g can of good quality chopped tomatoes simmered for 20 minutes until thick with a clove of finely chopped garlic, pinch of sugar, 1 tsp of dried thyme, tsp of tomato puree and a glug of olive oil, pepper & salt.
Serves 2 with a green salad
This is what you need:
120g quick cook Polenta
50g semi-dried tomatoes, snipped into small pieces with a pair of kitchen scissors (http://www.merchant-gourmet.com/products/dried-vegetables/ these slow roast tomatoes from Merchant Gourmet are good)
20g butter, melted
2 egg yolks
leaves from 5 sprigs of fresh thyme or 1 1/2 tsp of dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
This is what you do:
- preheat the oven to 220C
- use half the butter to grease an oven proof baking dish
- pour the milk into a saucepan, add the semi-dried tomatoes and bay leaf
- bring to the boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes
- remove the bay leaf with a fork, then add the polenta mixing until the mixture begins to thicken and pull away from the sides of the pan
- this usually takes about 5 minutes or so, but check the instructions for making “firm” polenta on the bag/packet
- remove the pan from the heat and add half the Parmesan, egg yolks and pepper & salt
- work quickly because the eggs yolks will start to cook as soon as they hit the hot polenta
- let the mixture cool for 10 minutes
- clear and clean a worktop space
- turn the polenta mixture out onto the worktop and with wet hands shape into a 2cm thick slab
- cut the polenta into 5cm circles with a cookie cutter
- gather up the scraps, press them out again and keep stamping out circles until all the polenta has been used
- you may be able to loosen the polenta circles from the cookie cutter over the baking dish with one hand, catch it with the other and lay it in the baking dish
- slightly overlapping each circle on the previous one
- alternatively, use a spatula to lift the circles off the worktop
- drizzle over the rest of the butter and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan
- bake for 25 minutes or until the top is brown
- serve piping hot, with extra Parmesan and a tomato sauce on the side
- fire-place + sheepskin slippers optional!