Never underestimate the power of surprise coupled with laughter.
Last Thursday, I awoke from a deep sleep to the sound of our puppy barking furiously, followed by the sounds of a commotion downstairs. Had I been more alert, I would have been alarmed, but instead I tried to drift back to my dreams. A few minutes later I heard uproarious laughter down the hallway. Thinking I had indeed slipped back to a dreamworld, I was shocked when my husband nudged me awake to tell me we had a visitor. Our son, Clark, in collusion with his sister, Isabel, and a close friend had orchestrated a surprise visit home from Montreal to see us for the weekend. When we last spoke, we weren’t sure when we’d see him next and then, as if by magic, he was here. It was like getting an unexpected Christmas gift―in February. I didn’t realize how much I missed him until he was here. All of us needed a boost of energy and connection that could only be created by being together. What ensued was a relaxed, laughter filled weekend that will fuel our souls for a long time to come.
Family meals were a part of the magic. This dish of Cheesy Polenta was the surprise hit of the weekend. Humble cornmeal is cooked in a bath of stock and milk until it thickens. Goat cheese is added and melted in. It’s then poured into a baking pan and topped with more cheese. After it bakes, it continues to thicken and the cheese browns to form a crunchy, textured crust over the otherwise soft dish. We had it with some shrimp roasted with garlic and olive oil, then again with some lightly grilled pork chops. Either way—on its own or accompanied by another main dish—this simple recipe will elevate any meal to a celebration. Try it.
I look forward to seeing you in my kitchen, gathering flavors, soon.
Think spring & daffodils!
Cheesy Baked Polenta
Yield: 6 to 8 Servings
- Olive oil, for baking pan
- 2 ½ cups stock (chicken or vegetable)
- 2 cups whole milk
- ¾ cup polenta or coarse cornmeal
- 4 ounces goat cheese, softened and at room temperature
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup shredded hard cheese (Parmesan, Monterey Jack or cheddar)
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Lightly oil a 10-inch round baking pan or deep dish pie plate.
- Pour the stock and milk into a large soup pan. Place on stovetop and bring to a boil.
- Lower the heat and, while whisking constantly, slowly sprinkle the cornmeal into the boiling liquid. Simmer for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring almost constantly, with a wooden spoon or whisk, until the polenta is thick and smooth.
- Remove from the heat. Add the goat cheese, salt, and pepper. Stir until the cheese melts completely. Pour the polenta into the prepared pie pan and sprinkle with shredded hard cheese.
- Place in oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the polenta is bubbly and the cheese is completely melted.
- Serve hot.
This recipe was adapted from Make It Ahead by Ina Garten.