STEAMING POLENTA WITH TALEGGIO CHEESE
Italian Home Cooking
by Julia Della Croce
I was first served this homey dish in Lombardy, land of sublime taleggio cheese. Taleggio and polenta is a logical marriage in this polenta-eating, cheese-producing part of Italy, and now it is standard fare in my kitchen as well. There is nothing to it: Pour steaming polenta directly from the cooking pot onto a large platter and top with hunks of this rich, buttery cheese. A few pointers: Be sure to add the polenta to the water in a slow, steady trickle, stirring all the while, to prevent lumps from forming. While I prefer unprocessed, long-cooking polenta for its creaminess and superior flavor, it is hard to find in America. Substitute a Spanish brand of polenta cornmeal or organic polenta meal rather than instant polenta, which is far more pricey and not as good. Polenta should be made in time to serve it immediately, from pot to table.
• 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
• 1½ pounds imported Italian taleggio cheese, at room temperature
• 2 quarts water
• 2 tablespoons coarse salt
• 3 cups coarse polenta cornmeal
• additional boiling water, if necessary
1. Drizzle the melted butter in an ample wide and shallow serving dish. Cut the crust off the taleggio and have it ready to spoon over the polenta after it is cooked.
2. Fill a deep, heavy pot with the 2 quarts water and bring it to a rolling boil over high heat. Add the salt, and little by little, pour in the cornmeal, using a sturdy wooden spoon or whisk to stir well and continuously. Cook over medium heat, stirring the polenta often; this is important if the polenta is to become properly soft and creamy. The polenta is ready when it is so thick that it begins to resist stirring and pulls away easily from the sides of the pan with the spoon or whisk (40 to 50 minutes or more for unprocessed polenta; about 20 minutes for Spanish or organic polenta). If the polenta is quite thick but still not pulling away easily from the pan, add a little more boiling water and continue to stir until it is ready.
3. Pour the polenta, piping hot, into the serving dish. Spoon the taleggio, which by now has softened, on top of the polenta. Use a large serving spoon to dish the polenta and cheese onto individual plates and serve at once.