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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Baked Polenta with Cheese and Swiss Chard

Here is a versatile casserole which can serve as a side dish, a meatless main dish, or a light meal on its own. I'll admit that mozzarella cheese called for didn't taste quite cheesy enough for me. I plan to substitute some sharp cheddar or asiago next time (I'll let you know how that goes). I think you could add some crumbled cooked Italian sausage to the chard if you don't want to go meatless.


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Baked Polenta with Cheese and Swiss Chard


Adapted from The Washington Post which adapted it from The Best Casserole Cookbook Ever  by Beatrice Ojakangas
Serves: 6-8 as a side or 5-6 as a main dish

For the chard layer:

1 T olive oil
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch Swiss chard, stems and leaves separated and coarsely chopped (2 to 2 1/2 c--but I used more like 4 c)
salt and pepper
1 T water

For the polenta:

2 c milk (at least 2 %)
1 1/2 c water
1/2 teas salt
1 c polenta (you may substitute corn grits or stone-ground cornmeal, don't substitute instant polenta)
1/4 c freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 T unsalted butter
1 c shredded cheese, mozzarella for mild flavor, medium or sharp cheddar or asiago for more flavor
1/3 c sour cream

Preheat the oven to 400F when you start making the polenta. 

For the chard:

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds, until fragrant; add the stems from the chard. Season lightly with salt and pepper, and stir to combine; add the water, cover and cook for 2 minutes, then add the leaves. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes, until the leaves are wilted.  Remove from the heat, uncover and let cool. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

For the polenta:

Combine the milk, water, and salt in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce the medium-low heat and slowly whisk in the polenta. Cook, whisking constantly, for about 5 minutes. Then let it cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture has thickened to the consistency of mashed potatoes. Add 2 T of the Parmesan along with the butter and the mozzarella cheese to the polenta, stirring until well incorporated.

Spread half of the polenta mixture in a buttered  2 1/2- to 3-quart casserole dish. Then spoon the chard mixture evenly on top. Spread the sour cream in as smooth a layer as you can. Carefully cover the layers with the remaining polenta. Top with the rest of the Parmesan cheese. Bake, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes until the top is golden.

This can be assembled a day before baking, but I advise you let the dish sit out of the refrigerator for an hour before putting it in a hot oven. Add about 5 minutes to the baking time.

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