Monday, January 17, 2011

Polenta Gratin with Leeks, Swiss Chard and Gruyere

Tonight's supper is from a recipe I found on NPR. It was a story called "Going with While Grains" that aired a year ago.

I've adapted this recipe to accommodate the fact that I don't have any dry white wine in the house. Actually no wine at all at the moment (*gasp!*). I've also added a few grates of nutmeg because I think I pretty much have to do that with chard or spinach. Just gotta.

Stuff you need:

6 C water
2 tsp salt
1 3/4 C yellow cornmeal
1 C grated Gruyere
2 T Olive oil
3 Leeks, thinly sliced and then washed
1 tsp dried rosemary or 1 T fresh, chopped
1 bunch Swiss chard-white or rainbow, separate leaf from ribs, chop and wash
Juice of one lemon
Red pepper flakes
1/4 C grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350.

Make the polenta: Bring the water to a boil with the salt. Whisk in the cornmeal. When it's all well-incorporated and bubbling, turn the heat down to simmer and monitor it for 15 minutes, giving it a stir periodically. Stir half the Gruyere into that. Season to taste. Set aside.

While the polenta is cooking, saute the leeks in olive oil until they begin to soften. Add in the chard. Start it cooking down and then stir in the lemon juice. Put in a couple of grates of fresh nutmeg, or 1/8 tsp. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let it all cook down until the chard is completely wilted and the edge is taken off the lemon taste.

Grease a 9 x 13 pan. Spread half the polenta mixture on the bottom, layer on the greens, sprinkle the rest of the Gruyere, and then spread on the rest of the polenta. Top with the Parmesan or Romano, whichever you are using. Bake until golden brown and delicious, about 45 minutes.

Vegetable Shepherd's Pie-the recipe

Ok, here is the recipe for the Vegetable Shepherd's Pie. My buddy Debbie Burgess tells me to go ahead and publish it. I don't know the chef who created the dish, so my only way to credit her is to point to her website, Chef Mei, Personal Chef Service in Fayetteville, NC.

Here is the recipe with my editorial suggestions in red:

Vegetable Shepherd’s Pie
By Chef Mei, a personal chef. Given to me by Debbie Burgess

Mashed potato topping**
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp dried basil
2 T butter
1 tsp olive oil
1 T chopped parsley.

3 T olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
2 small leeks (white parts only), halved lengthwise, sliced ½ inch thick and washed
8 ounces cremini mushrooms
(I quartered these)
3 large carrots, cut into ¾-inch dice
3 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into ¾-inch dice
(next time I make this, I might try sunchokes. I almost did this time because the grocery store appeared to be out. But the produce guy found some parsnips for me)
1 15-ounce canned cannellini or navy beans, rinsed and drained
1 C frozen peas, thawed
2 T chopped fresh thyme or 2 teaspoon dried
1 T chopped fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried
1 750-ml bottle red Zinfandel or Burgundy wine
1 T Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp sugar
Salt and pepper
3 T butter, room temperature
3 T all-purpose flour
4 C vegetable broth heated in microwave
½ C chopped parsley, garnish

**Mashed Potato Topping

Boil 4 large potatoes until tender, 15-25 minutes. Peel and mashed potatoes with 4 tablespoons butter and ½ cup milk. Season to taste and set aside until ready to use. You can also add ½ cup Cheddar cheese to the mixture along with some chopped parsley. Topping is enough to cover a 9x15 baking dish.


Filling: Heat olive oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Sauté onions for 2 minutes; add in leeks, stirring occasionally until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add mushrooms and and 1/2 teaspoon of sugar. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Turn heat down to medium and continue to cook until mushrooms give off liquid, about 5 minutes. Next add carrots, parsnips, and all the herbs. Simmer for about 8-10 minutes until vegetable begins to soften. Transfer vegetables to a bowl.

Add wine to the pot and boil until reduced to about 1 cup, about 10-15 minutes. While the wine is reducing, mix together butter and flour in a bowl to form a beurre manie.

Add vegetable broth
(As I said in my last post, I think I’d put in only 3 cups of the broth to start, then add more if it’s needed. I felt like there was too much sauce, and too runny.), Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper and 2 teaspoon sugar to wine and bring to a low simmer. Whisk in beurre manie until blended and bring to a simmer until sauce slightly thickens, about 4 minutes. Add back the vegetable mixture, thawed peas and beans. Simmer covered for about 25 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Topping: While the filling simmers, prepare mashed potato topping as described above. Melt butter and olive oil in saucepan over medium heat. Sauté garlic and basil for about 30 seconds. Add to prepared mashed potato, stir to blend. 
(I think I’d thin this out a bit to make it more spread-able. Maybe pipe it on with a piping bag?)

To Assemble: Preheat broiler. Place filling in a 3-quart baking dish. Place baking dish on baking sheet. Spoon potato mixture over filling and spread evenly to cover. Broil 3 inches from heat until top becomes golden, about 4-6 minutes.

Notes: I sent this to my mom and told her I think this recipe would be just fine salt-free. The wine and butter really make it so savory that I think someone on a salt-free diet, as my dad is, wouldn't miss that tinge of salt at all.