Let’s hear it for Mark Bittman, food writer extraordinaire and cookbook hero to all! The latest release in his How To Cook Everything series focuses squarely on all things barbecue. From soups and salads to elegant, hearty main courses and even dessert, this is the book to pick up if you’re looking to expand your grilling repertoire.
Elegant and unexpected, these luxe little morsels will have guests singing your praises. And you’ll have time to bask in the spotlight since you made most of it before they arrived. Be sure to cook the polenta to the thickness described in the recipe; otherwise it will never firm up enough for you to slice and grill it.
Polenta Squares with Dilled Sour Cream and Smoked Salmon
Substitute chopped fresh dill for the chives and smoked salmon (lox) for the salmon roe; one 4-ounce package should be enough. Top the sour cream with a small piece of salmon. If your store carries smoked salmon trimmings, this is the perfect use for it.
Rosemary Polenta Squares with Orange Crème Fraîche and Olives
Replace the sour cream with crème fraîche, and the lemon with orange zest and juice. In Step 1, add 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary. In Step 5, top the crème fraîche mixture with chopped pitted kalamata olives.
Polenta Squares with Dried Tomato–Basil Goat Cheese and Chorizo
Omit the sour cream, chives, and lemon. Mash 8 ounces fresh goat cheese with ¼ cup each chopped oil-packed dried tomatoes and chopped fresh basil. In Step 5, spread the mixture on each polenta square and top with a very thin slice of Spanish chorizo (alternatively, chop about 4 ounces chorizo and sprinkle it over the top).
- 1 tablespoon butter, plus more for the pan
- 1 cup medium or coarse polenta
- 1/2 cup milk (preferably whole)
- Salt and pepper
- 1/4 cup minced chives
- Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
- Good-quality olive oil for brushing the polenta
- 2-3 ounces salmon roe
For the polenta
Butter a 9-×13-inch baking pan. Put the polenta in a medium saucepan with 1 cup water and whisk to form a smooth slurry. Whisk in the milk and a large pinch salt and set the pan over medium-high heat. Heat until the mixture boils, then lower the heat to medium and cook, whisking frequently and adding more water a little at a time to prevent lumps and keep the mixture somewhat soupy. Expect to add another 2½ to 3½ cups water before the polenta is ready. It will be thick and creamy, with just a little grittiness, and the mixture will pull away from the side of the pan when you stir, 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the grind. Stir in the butter until incorporated and taste for salt and pepper. Pour the polenta into the prepared pan and spread into an even layer; it should be about ½ inch thick. Let stand at room temperature until fully cooled (or cover and refrigerate overnight).
Start the coals or heat a gas grill for medium-high direct cooking. Make sure the grates are clean.
Whisk the sour cream, chives, and lemon zest in a small bowl. Add lemon juice to taste.
With a serrated knife, cut the polenta in half across the short side so that you have two pieces, each 6½ × 9 inches. Lift them out of the pan with a spatula, being careful not to break them apart. Lightly brush them with oil on both sides. Put them on the grill directly over the fire. Close the lid and cook, turning once, until they are brown and heated through, 3 to 5 minutes per side.
Carefully transfer the grilled polenta to a cutting board. With the serrated knife, cut each half into 4 strips along the short side, then cut each strip into 6 equal pieces. Transfer the squares to a platter. Dollop 1 teaspoon of the sour cream mixture on each square, top with a few salmon eggs, and serve.