Polenta was once the catchall term for any grain boiled to a porridge and flavored with spices and cheese. When corn came from the New World to the Italian Peninsula, polenta was made with cornmeal. Today, polenta is found in two forms: as a solid cake or as a creamy grits-like mush. In this recipe, I go with the mush (continue reading about polenta here).
Serves 8 to 10 people as a first course, 6 as a main
4 heads Treviso radicchio
6 large Portobello mushrooms, cleaned
¼ cup red wine vinegar
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4 salt-packed anchovy fillets, rinsed, drained, and finely chopped
About ½ cup coarsely chopped fresh marjoram leaves
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup quick-cooking polenta
8 ounces stracchino cheese or soft goat cheese, cut into ½-inch dice
Cut each head of radicchio in half lengthwise and place them, cut side up, in an 11- by 16-inch baking dish. Remove the Portobello stems and cut them in half lengthwise. Cut the caps in half, and place the caps and stems in the same baking dish.
In a small bowl, mix together the vinegar, garlic, anchovies, marjoram, and olive oil. Pour this over radicchio and portobellos and let stand for 1 hour.
In a 3-quart saucepan, bring 5 cups of water to a boil. Add the salt and the sugar. Then drizzle in the polenta in a thin stream, whisking constantly until all the polenta has been incorporated and the mixture is beginning to thicken. Remove the pan from the heat, switch to a wooden spoon, and continue to stir until the polenta is as thick as paste. Stir in the stracchino pieces. Cover the pan tightly with plastic wrap and set it in a warm place.
Preheat the broiler.
Place the portobellos and radicchio on a cookie sheet, reserving the marinade that drips off, and broil until just lightly charred on one side, 4 to 5 minutes. Turn them over and broil for 3 to 4 minutes on the other side. Remove, and set aside until they are cool enough to handle.
Cut the mushrooms into ¼-inch-thick strips, and cut the radicchio in half lengthwise. In a large bowl, combine the mushrooms, radicchio, and the reserved marinade. Toss gently but thoroughly. Spoon the polenta onto the center of a large wooden board, arrange the mushroom-radicchio mixture in the center, like a turban, and serve.
Recipe courtesy of Molto Batali (ecco 2011)