Vegetarian Recipe: Stuffed and Baked Polenta
I love baked dishes when I’m entertaining or busy with kids, because they mind their own business in the oven while I take care of other things. This polenta is filled with a mixture of sautéed mushrooms and kale in a creamy tarragon- enhanced béchamel sauce and just enough cheese to make it seem rich without blowing your whole week’s calorie budget.
Quick-cooking polenta will work just fine in this recipe. I particularly like the De la Estancia brand from Argentina, which has a pronounced corn flavor. But you can use any polenta that you like.
You can prepare this dish and bake it immediately or refrigerate it and bake it the next day. Just allow more time in the oven if it’s been refrigerated. Be sure to read the recipe through before starting, as it calls for the sauce and the polenta to be pre-cooked.
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium white onion, diced
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Hot red pepper flakes
- 2 pounds white mushrooms, sliced 1⁄4 inch thick
- 1 bunch kale, stemmed and thinly sliced (about 4 cups packed)
- Grated zest of 1 lemon
- 9 cups cooked polenta (3 cups uncooked, prepared according to package directions)
- 2 cups Tarragon Béchamel (page 324)
- 3⁄4 cup freshly grated Asiago Fresco or provolone
- 1⁄2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F using convection, or 425°F without convection. Grease a 9 x 13- inch baking pan with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil.
2. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in your largest skillet over medium-high heat; add the onion and garlic and sauté until the onion is translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the salt, hot red pepper flakes, and mushrooms, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are browned and most of their liquid has cooked out (the bottom of the pan will seem dry).
3. Add the kale and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is wilted and tender, about 10 minutes. Add the lemon zest. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
4. Spread half of the polenta in the bottom of the baking dish. If the polenta has cooled and solidified, you may have to squish it into place. Top with the mushroom mixture, then the béchamel sauce, and finally the remaining polenta. Scatter the grated cheeses on top.
5. Bake until hot all the way through and golden brown on top, about 30 minutes. Allow the dish to rest for 10 minutes before serving.
Recipe © 2012 by Michael Natkin and used by permission of The Harvard Common Press.