Last week, I talked about making soft polenta with greens and sausage, and mentioned that a handy thing to do while you are at it, is to make some extra and put it in a loaf pan in the fridge to solidify for later use. Today's post is about what I did with the leftovers from that post last Sunday. Here in Michigan it is prime asparagus season, and since it has been cool and damp, it has been a very good year for it so far. So, when I was invited to bring a side dish to dinner with friends, it seemed like a good idea to use my leftover polenta and take advantage of the availability of wonderful asparagus.
I like making layered dishes with vegetables or salad between layers of starch - kind of a savory take on the idea of the very popular sweet pastry, napoleons. So this recipe uses the polenta in three layers and asparagus between with a lemony sauce to create a new twist on the theme. Why is this "prudent foodie" fare? Well, asparagus is in season, and can be had pretty cheaply at the grocery store or farmer's market. We are using inexpensive leftover polenta, and it's healthy and very very tasty!
Polenta Napoleon with Asparagus
I small loaf pan of polenta with butter and parmesan cheese, chilled to stiffen
- 3/4-1 lb of fresh asparagus
- 1/2 -1 lemon
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 TB butter, plus 2 TB butter and 2TB olive oils
- 2 TB chopped chives or chopped chive blossoms, if in bloom
- 1 tsp dried tarragon, or 1TB fresh
- 1/2-1 cup cream
- 1/3 cup crumbled soft goat cheese
- 1/4 cup flour stirred together with 1/2 cup dried bread crumbs
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Snap the ends off your asparagus and wash it. Toss it with 1-2 tsp olive oil, add a little salt and pepper and put it in a glass baking dish. Add TB butter and 2TB olive oil to another glass baking dish that is big enough to put your polenta in if it is sliced in three layers the long way. Put the baking dish in the oven for the shortening to heat up. Remove the polenta from the loaf pan and turn it out on a cutting board. Put your flour and bread crumbs on a long sheet of waxed paper and mix together; add some pepper and salt to it if you feel like it. Slice the polenta into three layers the long way. Tip: the layer that was the top when it was in the pan is the most fragile, so be careful cutting it, and make it the thickest. As you cut each layer, transfer it to the waxed paper and coat the top and bottom with the flour and bread crumb mixture. I used a couple of spatulas to do this without breaking the pieces. If you break one, you can always use it for the bottom layer when you assemble the dish :-) When all the pieces of polenta are dredged, carefully remove your now very hot baking dish from the oven and put the pieces of polenta in it. Drizzle a tiny bit more olive oil over the tops of them, or if you must, use an olive oil cooking spray. Put the baking dish back in the oven, and put the dish with the asparagus in two. Bake for twenty minutes. If you plan to eat this immediately, start making your sauce. I took this dish to some friends, and made the sauce there, which worked ok too. You need to keep the polenta and asparagus warm, and the texture will be better if you serve right away, but it is definitely a dish you can take to a potluck. I assembled the polenta and asparagus, and poured the sauce over it last when I took it to friends.
Creamy Lemon Sauce with Tarragon
Melt 2Tb butter on very low heat with the tarragon. While it is melting beat two egg yolks with the juice of 1/2 -1 lemon. How much lemon you use will depend on how juicy your lemon turns out to be. If you get a couple TB out of the first half stop there, if not use the rest! Add the eggs and lemon to the butter before it completely melts, and stir it with a birch whisk or wooden spoon over the low heat so it doesn't curdle. As the lemon, eggs and butter come together and start to thicken, add in the cream cream, stirring constantly. You will get a fairly thick, but pourable pale yellow sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste. White pepper is nice in this if you happen to have it, because you won't see the black flecks in your pale yellow sauce.
To assemble, use a couple spatulas to take a layer of the polenta out of the baking dish, and set on a serving dish. Put 1/2 the asparagus over it, and crumble half the goat cheese on it. If you are serving at home, you can spoon a little sauce on too. Put another layer of the polenta over it, and put all but three or four spears of asparagus in, adding the rest of the goat cheese and another spoon of the sauce. Top with the last layer of polenta, the reserved asparagus spears, and the rest of the sauce. If you have them, sprinkle with the chopped chive flowers.