A comforting, cold weather treat. (Can you tell I’m not in a writing mood today?) Seriously though, this is vegetarian deliciousness right here.
adapted from: The London Cookbook
3 quarts chicken stock or vegetable stock at room temperature
2 cups polenta
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
2 handfuls of pecans, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
a handful of chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 cup good artisanal fresh ricotta, at room temperature
olive oil, as needed
salt + pepper, to taste
1 or 2 bunches sage
1 tablespoon flour
olive oil, for frying
1 small butternut squash peeled and cut into 1/4 inch slices, each about 2 inches long
olive oil, for frying
To make the polenta, preheat the oven to 350 F.
Pour the stock into a large, heavy stockpot. Add the polenta and 3 tablespoons of the butter. Stir and put into the oven to bake, uncovered, for 1 hour and 10 minutes.
Give the polenta a thorough stir, then add the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter and the pecans. If the polenta seems dry, add a ladleful of broth or water. Bake for 10 minutes longer.
Remove the pot from the oven and stir in the Parmesan and parsley.
Grease a rimmed baking sheet. Pour the polenta onto the prepared sheet and smooth the top with a spatula. I can’t fit a baking sheet into my Barbie-sized refrigerator, so I use multiple pans of varying sizes. Refrigerate until it stops steaming, them wrap with plastic wrap or Press’n Seal until fully set, at least 2 hours and up to 24.
Once set, cut the polenta into squares. Let your hunger dictate the size. (There will be leftover polenta; freeze it for another day, fry it up in batches for breakfast topped with Parmesan, or make polenta fries etc.) Fry, broil or grill the polenta squares until they are crisp on both sides and are heated through.
Combine the ricotta with a little bit of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste in a bowl. Set aside until needed.
To fry the sage, pluck the leaves from the sprigs. Pat the sage leaves dry with paper towels if they are moist. Give it a very light coating of flour, and shake off the excess. Line a plate with a few layers of paper towels. Heat a “glug or two” of olive oil in a frying pan. Carefully drop the sage leaves into the hot oil and fry for 20 seconds. The leaves should sizzle and curl slightly. Remove them with a slotted spoon or spatula, and check to see if they are crisp. If not, fry them a few seconds longer, but don’t let them burn. Transfer to the paper towels to drain.
Line another plate with paper towels. Warm another good sized glug of olive in a large frying pan until hot, but not smoking. Working in batches, add the squash and fry until lovely and golden on both sides. Transfer to the paper towels to drain and season to taste with salt + pepper.
To assemble, place the polenta, whether grilled or fried, on warmed plates and top with a good dollop of the ricotta followed by a generous pile of squash. Finish with the fried sage. Add a sprinkling of freshly grated Parmesan if you like, and several grindings of black pepper.