Crispy Polenta Cakes are an elegant and simple, make-ahead appetizers for your upcoming party. This is my guests all time favorite and my family’s. I do sometimes make Polenta as a main course, serving bigger portions of it with roasted carrots and chard with a lentil puree. For the appetizer, however, I chose to pair it with a slow-cooked tomato compote and avocado, cilantro crema to give the zing and creamy contrasting flavors that make you sigh with pleasure.
Polenta (Bob’s Red Mill, Organic, Polenta, Corn Grits, 24 oz pack of 2) is made with cornmeal though traditionally it was made with starchy, coarse grains like farro, millets, spelt, and chickpeas. It is a perfect blank canvas for you to add flavors and build up your dish. It does take a long time to cook, about 45 minutes with near-constant stirring. So be sure to make it ahead. You can use instant polenta if you are in a pinch or you get cooked polenta (Trader Joe’s Organic Polenta 18oz (1lb 2oz) 510g) at the market these days. But, I prefer the slow-cooked method. I have given the method to make it in the slow cooker which is actually much easier.
So this holiday, make these flavorful Crispy Polenta Cakes and YOU will be the star of the party.
Storage: Polenta freezers well for up to a month. I like to cut 5″ squares and wrap them individually and place them in freezer bags. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before using.
Slow Cooker I use – Hamilton Beach 33473 Programmable Slow Cooker, 7-Quart, Silver
For the Main Course make Mint Linguine with Lemon-Leek Sauce
Crispy Polenta cakes are an elegant and simple, make-ahead appetizers with a slow-cooked tomato fondue and avocado, cilantro crema.
- 1420 ml Water approx: 6 Cups
- 175 grams Polenta approx: 1 Cup
- 50 grams grated Parmesan Cheese approx: 1/2 Cup
- 55 grams Butter approx: 4 Tbsb
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
- 2 Tbsb chopped fresh flat-leaf Parsley
- 2 Garlic cloves minced
- 2 teaspoons Vegetable Oil
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper
- 6 Tbsb Vegetable Oil for frying
- Cooking spray
- 2 Tbsb Butter
- 1 Tbsb Vegetable Oil
- 3 large Garlic cloves minced
- 1 large Shallot minced
- 1000 grams Roma Tomatoes (2 pounds)
- 1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt
- freshly ground Black Pepper (2 turns)
- 170 grams fresh Avocado approx: 1 large Avocado
- 25 grams fresh Cilantro approx: 1/2 Cup
- 1/2 Jalapeño
- 1 Tbsb freshly squeezed Lemon Juice
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
- 3 Tbsb Goat Cheese whisked with 1 Tablespoon Cream and a pinch of Salt
- 10 Sage leaves fried in 1 teaspoon of Clarified Butter/Ghee
Cooking Method 1 - Stove Top
Bring 6 cups of water and 1 teaspoon salt to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and slowly add the cornmeal in a shower, whisking constantly until the mixture thickens, 3 to 5 minutes. Change to a wooden spoon and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the spoon stands in the polenta, 15 to 25 minutes.
Cooking Method 2- Slow Cooker
Grease the bottom and sides of the slow cooker with oil or butter. Whisk the cornmeal (or polenta), water and salt together in the slow cooker. Cook on low for 4-5 hours, stir one time half-way through.
Cooking Method 3- Instant Pot
Whisk polenta and 4 cups water in Instant Pot until combined. Season with 1 teaspoon salt. Bring mixture to a simmer over medium-high, whisk again, then seal pressure cooker. Cook at high pressure for 9 minutes. When the timer goes off, manually release pressure. Carefully open the lid and whisk polenta until homogenous and creamy.
Combine the parsley and garlic and chop together until very fine. Add to the Polenta with the Parmigiano and 2 tablespoons of the butter and mix well. Season with salt and pepper. Immediately spread the polenta in a buttered 9-by 9-inch pan. Smooth the top with a rubber spatula and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.
Score the polenta into 1-inch squares or any desired shape and size.
You can freeze the polenta at this stage or refrigerate for a week. Choose one of the two following methods to proceed.
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Spray a sheet pan with cooking spray and line the polenta such that they don't touch each other. Top with few drops of vegetable oil. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes turning the polenta over half way (15 minutes) through till they are golden brown and crisp on top.
In a deep skillet, melt the Butter. Add the shallot and cook over low heat until softened, 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, and garlic, and cook over moderate heat until the tomatoes release their liquid, 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Continue simmering till the mixture thickens and almost all the liquid has evaporated. Reserve in a container.
Blend together all the ingredients. Add water 1 Tablespoon at a time. The crema should be thick. Taste and adjust for salt. If you would like it spicier, increase the quantity of Jalapeno.
Warm the Tomato Compote. Place a tablespoon of Tomato Compote. Arrange the Polenta around it. Pipe in the Avacado Cilantro Crema in the center. Pipe the whipped goat cheese in small dollops. Top with fried Sage. Serve.