Today in school, my group hosted our buffet, themed a "Wild Harvest," with "foraged berries, mushrooms, and greens, and some boar and venision we "hunted."
One of our tasks was to come up with two Hors d'Oeuvres for today's feast (in addition to the two from last week). After brainstorming multiple ideas, we came up with the following:
for last week's "practice" - bacon wrapped stiltion creme stuffed dates on cucumber rounds and tomato bruschetta on baguette rounds
for our "wild harvest," house smoked trout with a horseradish creme on pumpernickel and - my new versatile favorite - red onion thyme confit and pancetta on a polenta round.
These little sweet and tender, yet crispy and savory bites were relatively easy to make too! I already find myself dreaming up variations on a theme:
pear compote with a blue cheese crumble on a round
lamb ragu over rosemary polenta rounds
pesto and cherry tomatoes over mozzarella polenta
Roast beef and braised chard over crispy polenta
Apple compote over cinnamon polenta (maybe?)
Anything is possible - here is the basic recipe I followed:
My plain version of Ina's Rosemary Polenta:
1 stick butter
1/4 c olive oil
1 tbsp minced garlic - about 3 cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
3 c chicken stock
2 c half and half
2 c milk (or 1 c heavy cream, 3 c milk)
2 c cornmeal (I like Gray's!)
1/2 c good grated parmesan
Flour, olive oil, and butter for frying
6 large red onions
Crisp pancetta rounds
Polenta: Heat butter and oil in a large saucepan. Add the garlic, salt, pepper and saute 1 min. Add stock, milk/cream, and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and slowly sprinkle the cornmeal into the hot milk while stirring constantly with a whisk. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for a few minutes until thickened and bubbly. Off the heat, stir in the cheese. Pour into one/two sheet pans and spread to desired thickness (I like 1/4" or 3/8" or so). Refridgerate until cold.
Using a round or fluted (or whatever you wish!) cutter, cut out shapes from polenta. While butter and oil are heating in pan, gently dust shapes with flour. Cook over medium heat for 3-5 minutes, turning one time, until golden. Drain/let cool.
Topping: Slice onions and sweat them in butter in a pan, then add port to cover, along with the thyme, and reduce, slowly cooking under meltingly tender. While the compote cools, crisp the pancetta in the oven.
When all ingredients are ready, assemble them: round, compote, pancetta. Straightforward, flexible - and most important, tasty!