Baked polenta is given some oomph with prosciutto and a little melted ooze courtesy of fontina cheese. Topped with a crispy sage piece, it dresses up polenta and goes out on the town. This is one of over a thousand recipes to choose from on Delia Smith's site Delia Online.
I have a tenuous relationship with recipes from England. There was a time (and what a time it was) that I studied in Austria and traveled widely and ... lived on $5 a day. I looked longingly in French restaurants and Austria's pastry shops. And then went to the market and got a baguette, a small piece of cheese and some fruit and that would see me through the day. I knew there was better food to be had. But I was 19, broke and in Europe! I woke up every day saying "I'm in Europe" and food was secondary to the adventure.
The only place where food did not beckon was in England. I was sated with Shakespeare's homeland and the history of the Plantagenets and the Tudors. I could shout out a credible history of the reigning families way before there was a TV series. (Yes, I am that much of a nerd.) Walks on English soil fed my Anglophile soul. A simple ploughman's lunch would take care of the rest.
For 40 years, Delia Smith has worked to change the perception of English food. Famous for her no-nonsense approach to cooking, she was won numerous awards and gained accolades through her many television shows and cookbooks. As you may have guessed, Delia Smith is #35 on Gourmet's list of women game-changers in food. She left high school at 16 - didn't even bother taking her exams and flitted from job to job. There was the odd year as a hairdresser, and then there the shop assistant year and later work in a travel agency. At age 21, she finally fell into the food world and never looked back.
Her influence is huge. If she demonstrated an egg dish on her TV show, eggs disappeared off of grocery stores shelves. Once she caused a shortage of eggs! When she recommends a product - the product sells in a way they never did before - not unlike Oprah's influence. She is almost a corporation in her own right. Take a look at her website for the breadth of her recipes and the products she sells. Legend has it, she finally settled on cooking after her boyfriend told her to go to culinary school because she cooked so well.
(These days the boyfriend would be back asking for a percentage of profits because it was his idea!) Whatever you think of her recipes, she struck a chord in England and fulfilled a need before there was a Nigella or a Jamie.
Smith does not feature "British cuisine." She looks for decent food - fairly easy and if there's a shortcut - she'll take it. For the Polenta appetizer, she recommended buying the prepared rolls of polenta you find in the produce section. I didn't - but that's me - you certainly can and I wouldn't blink an eye. I made a pot of polenta in the morning, put it in a loaf pan, refrigerated it during the day and then later cut it into rectangles and toasted it.
However you choose to do it - it's a soothing appetizer for February. I enjoy a dish that tempts me with creaminess, salt, crunch and a little chew all one plate. It teases with textures and hugs you with flavors.
Delia Smith's Baked Polenta with Prosciutto, Fontina Cheese and Sage - serves 2
9 ounces ready-cooked polenta (or make your own)
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
6 sage leaves
6 slices of prosciutto
3 ounces fontina cheese cut into six slices (yes, I used a wee bit more)
(I dusted the dish with some Parmesan)
Put the olive oil into a saucer. Cut the polenta into six ½ inch (1 cm) slices and arrange these on the baking sheet, side by side. Brush each piece with olive oil, season generously with salt and freshly milled black pepper.
If you're cooking for two they can be joined into threes; if not leave a gap in between each one, then place the baking sheet under the grill about 4 inches (10 cm) below the heat source. Time it for about 3 minutes.
Next loosely roll up the pieces of ham and when the 3 minutes is up place a rolled-up piece of ham on top of each polenta slice. Next place a slice of cheese on top of the Parma ham and finally dip the sage leaves into the remaining olive oil and lay on them on top of the cheese.
Next loosely roll up the pieces of Parma ham and when the 3 minutes is up place a rolled-up piece of ham on top of each polenta slice. Next place a slice of cheese on top of the Parma ham and finally dip the sage leaves into the remaining olive oil and lay on them on top of the cheese. Place the baking sheet back under the grill and give it another 3-4 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling and turning golden and the sage leaves are crisp.
I do think of this as more improvisation than a recipe. Grill or bake some polenta and throw on some toppings. What's not to like?
Please check out what the other bloggers are doing for Week 34 of Female Chef Gourmet Game Changers. And if you want to join in the fun, e-mail Mary at One Perfect Bite. Mary started this delectable journey.
Kathleen - Gonna Want Seconds,