Polenta “French Toast” with Asparagus and Orange Beurre Blanc
Unfortunately, I did not get a good photo of this dish. I photographed the plate that I made for myself, which was put together after fussing over plates for the rest of my family, by which time the sauce had sat too long to appear as creamy and appetizing as it actually was. (My beurre blanc was also darker than standard because I used Cara Cara oranges, which have red flesh). However, this concoction was SO delicious, that there was no way I was going to skip posting it due to a lackluster photo. This is certainly not a dish that is light in terms of preparation time or calories. It is definitely a special occasion affair, not for everyday eating. However, the polenta French toast would still be delicious without the rich sauce and could be used for standard breakfast fare. The original recipe that I adapted (see link at the bottom of the recipe) has a sweet take on the polenta French toast, incorporating raisins and maple syrup and such.
3 1/4 cups water
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1 cup cornmeal (not quick-cooking)
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 cup plain unsweetened almond milk
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice (from 2 oranges)
2 small shallots, thinly sliced
1/2 cup heavy cream
6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound asparagus, cut diagonally into 1-inch pieces
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
Step One: Make the polenta, bring water and salt to a boil in a 2-quart pot. Add cornmeal in a slow, steady stream, stirring constantly. Cook, stirring often, until mixture begins to thicken, about 4 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring often, for 1 hour.
Step Two: Stir in zest, milk, salt, and pepper. Cook for 30 minutes. Spread polenta onto a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet, and let cool. Cover, and refrigerate overnight. (I used a 9-inch square baking pan, which was the perfect size to yield the correct number of “French toast” slices).
Step Three: Make the orange beurre blanc, bring wine, 1/2 cup orange juice, and the shallots to a boil in a large skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced to 3 tablespoons, about 10 minutes. Whisk in cream, and cook until reduced by three-quarters, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Add butter, 1 piece at a time, whisking after each addition. Strain into a heatproof bowl, and add remaining 2 tablespoons orange juice and the zest. Season with salt and pepper. Thin with water if too thick. Cover to keep warm.
Step Four: Make the asparagus, preheat oven to 475 degrees. Toss asparagus and oil on a rimmed baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper. Roast until golden, about 8 minutes.
Step Five: Make the French toast, cut cold polenta into 4-inch squares; cut each square into 2 triangles. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat until sizzling. Toss polenta triangles with corn flour, dusting off excess. Add to pan; cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Top each slice with asparagus, and drizzle with orange beurre blanc. Serve with remaining beurre blanc.
Sources: Adapted from, “Polenta French Toast,” Martha Stewart Living, 2009 and “Brioche French Toast with Asparagus and Orange Beurre Blanc” from Martha Stewart. View the Polenta French Toast recipe on WholeLiving.com. View the Brioche French Toast recipe on MarthaStewart.com.
Strawberries and goat cheese are one of my all time favorite salad topping combinations. I find that they are so delicious together that you don’t need much else. I also always try to make a somewhat mild dressing so that the flavors of the berries and cheese remain in the spotlight. This time instead of inventing my own, I used a recipe from Gourmet, but since I tend to like a stronger vinegar flavor I did downgrade the amount of oil. This salad is particularly delicious in the summer when fresh picked strawberries are available at the farmer’s market. If you can find locally crafted goat cheese as well, you will really be in business!
2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4-1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, depending on preference
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives
3 cups red leaf lettuce, torn into large pieces
6 small ripe strawberries, sliced
3 tablespoons goat cheese, crumbled
3 tablespoons sliced unsalted almonds
Step One: Make dressing, whisk together vinegar, shallot, mustard, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Add oil in a slow stream, whisking constantly until dressing is emulsified, then whisk in chives.
Step Two: Arrange lettuce evenly on four plates or in a large serving bowl, top with strawberries, goat cheese, and almonds; sprinkle with dressing or serve with dressing on the side.
Source: Dressing from “Endive, Mâche, and Radish Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette,” Gourmet, December 2001. View the recipe on Epicurious.com.