This was the entree we made for the recent Kavana Men Cook event. We’ve got a creamy polenta with lots of parmesan, topped with grilled fennel, grilled apples and blue cheese, and garnished with parsley, Maldon (aka the world’s greatest salt) , fennel pollen, and a spectacular apple balsamic vinegar from ChefShop.com.
One small regret I had at the dinner was that the polenta had cooled a bit too much by the time we’d added all of the other ingredients and got them to the table. So I recommend you pre-warm the bowls to make sure it comes out hot and delicious.
Notice how we’ve got two apple flavors (grilled and balsamic) and two fennel flavors (grilled and pollen). This is a great trick for increasing the depth of flavor in a dish by using two facets of the same ingredient. The dish would still be fine without the vinegar and pollen but they definitely take it up a level.
For the blue cheese, I stopped by the Cheese Cellar near Seattle Center for a recommendation. They suggested St. Agour or Blue D’Auvergne, which are both creamy and melt well. Cambozola or Gorgonzola Dolce would be good options if you can’t find the other two.
If you don’t have 30 minutes to make the polenta, look for the De La Estancia brand of Argentinian cornmeal at Whole Foods or some gourmet retailers; it is so finely ground it cooks in minutes and tastes great too.
Leftover polenta can be stored in oiled cookie sheet overnight and then cut into squares and grilled or pan-fried the next day.
This recipe is vegetarian, and could be made vegan by omitting the cheeses.
Polenta With Grilled Fennel and Apples, Blue Cheese And Apple Jus
Vegetarian, not vegan
Serves 4 as an entree
- 1 1/4 c. polenta
- 5 c. water
- 5 oz. parmesan, grated
- 1 large or 2 small bulbs fennel
- 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
- 1 apple suitable for cooking (Rome, Grannysmith, Pink Lady)
- 4 T. Apfelbalsam Essig vinegar
- 6 oz. blue cheese (see note above)
- 2 T. minced parsley
- flaky salt (such as Maldon (aka the world’s greatest salt))
- fresh ground black pepper
- fennel pollen
- Bring the water to a boil and whisk in the polenta. Reduce to a simmer and stir frequently for about 30 minutes, until quite smooth. Add more water if it gets too "tight". Stir in the parmesan cheese until melted. Taste and add salt if needed.
- Put your serving bowls in a very low oven to warm.
- While the polenta is cooking, discard the fennel tops, and slice the bulbs thickly in the vertical direction. Brush with olive oil and grill until thorougly tender and starting to get black spots. Allow to cool and then cut into medium dice.
- Peel and slice the apples thickly, and grill as with the fennel, but leave in slices. You just want to get them somewhat tender.
- When you are just about ready to serve, heat a saute pan over a high flame, add 2 T. of the olive oil, and give the the fennel a quick saute to reheat. Add a couple pinches of salt.
- To serve, put 1 c. polenta in a warmed bowl, top with fennel and apples and blue cheese, drizzle 1 T of the apple vinegar, sprinkle on generous pinches of flaky salt and fennel pollen, and add a final grind of black pepper.