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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.


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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