Polenta + Roasted Persimmons

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In my previous post I mentioned my eye-opening experience with Community Grains’ Floriani Red Flint Corn Polenta and, well, here it is. Waxing poetic about any edible item has its risks, but this particular cornmeal, each kernel milled whole and never sifted, thereby retaining every ounce of flavor and nutrition, is worth every bit of the superfluous accolades I’m about to throw its way. You see, many years ago when I was in the pre-amateur home cook stage, I decided to tackle the mammoth task of making Marcella (bless her soul) Hazan’s osso bucco with polenta. It was really just an excuse to put my newly-purchased Staub cocotte to use, and, for a cooking vessel, it performed exceedingly well (of course). The polenta, on the other hand, didn’t fare so well at my inexperienced hands. M and our dinner guest gamely (and kindly) polished off every bit of it, but one spoonful was more than enough for me. I swore off the ingredient for many years until that fateful lunch at Oliveto, where I knew I had to sample something new from the Community Grains product line. One bite of this polenta, and the lunch turned momentous, of the eye-opening, palate singing, Facebook-update-raving variety, because I had just discovered that, contrary to expectations, polenta could actually be delicious, in all its rustic, creamy, earthy, nutty, heirloom-corn worthy glory. I even flirted with the idea of growing this corn varietal in our backyard, but why go to that trouble when you can order a bag (or two) of the stuff? Eat it simply, with a fried egg and some chili oil, or use it as a bed for a hearty winter stew. Regardless, it’s going to be <insert appropriate superlative here>.

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Polenta with Roasted Persimmon, Brussels Sprouts & Mushroom

Inspired by Flour + Water// Serves 2 (mains) or 4 (appetizers)

Ever since we started incorporating whole grains into our diet, we’ve put our fuzzy logic rice cooker to good use. Brown rice, quinoa, farro…if it’s a grain you can be sure we’ve cooked it in this humble appliance. So it was only natural to attempt cooking polenta in the rice cooker, with excellent results, and that’s what guides the following recipe. Check out this Community Grains page for instructions on cooking the polenta on the stovetop or in the slow cooker. Carolyn Jung’s stovetop experience is also recommended reading if you’re planning to go that route.

I have the Foodie team and Flour + Water to thank for the inspiration behind this dish, following a blogger event at this esteemed restaurant last week. We had a side of roasted persimmons with kale and hen of the woods mushroom at dinner and it was enough to get me to recreate it at home. As it turns out, roasting persimmons just concentrates their flavor, making them a delectable match for the rich earthiness of this polenta.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Floriani red flint corn polenta integrale
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 lb Fuyu persimmons, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 6-8 ounces brussels sprouts, trimmed, halved and thinly sliced
  • 4 ounces chanterelles or black trumpets, cleaned and thinly cut
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated cheese such as Parmesan or Pecorino, served at the table

Directions

  1. Begin with the polenta, as it will take the longest to cook. If you have a rice cooker, combine the cornmeal, water and salt and set to cook on the ‘Porridge’ or ‘Slow Cook’ setting. Check in every 20 minutes, giving the polenta a stir to prevent any clumping. Keep warm until ready to serve.
  2. Preheat the oven to 385F. When the polenta’s almost done, toss the cut persimmons in olive oil and roast for 30 minutes or until the cubes are fork tender. Set aside.
  3. In a frying pan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium high heat then add the brussels sprouts. After two minutes, add the mushrooms and white wine, and let the wine bubble off, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in the 1/2 teaspoon salt and roasted persimmon, and take the pan off the heat. Keep warm until ready to serve.
  4. Just before serving, stir 4 tablespoons butter into the polenta until fully incorporated. If the polenta’s a little stiff and dry, add some warm water, a tablespoon at a time until it reaches a creamy, spoonable consistency.
  5. When ready, scoop the polenta into individual serving dishes (or one big wooden board), top with the persimmon and brussels sprout mix and serve, with grated cheese at the table for people to help themselves as they wish.

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