Here’s a special gourmet plate that has an unspeakable visual quality as well as being a marriage of delicious flavours.

On occasion when you are holiday entertaining out-of-town guests, or just any visitors any time, think about going the extra mile and prepare this fabulous food as a special welcome. It’s not difficult, but perhaps best doable by someone a little experienced in the kitchen and able to multitask.

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Make your favourite cheese polenta ahead of time. Let it rest to set firm and measure three equal portions sliced so when assembled they resemble a small pound cake. I prefer slices about 4×6, but you could cut smaller but equal slices such as 2×4.

Each mille-feuille is an individual serving, but a rather large serving. Present with a side serving of crispy bacon rashers and a tiny container (perhaps a glass or crystal salt-cellar) of one of my aioli dipping sauces, along with a few deep-fried whole garlic cloves, for an additional wow factor surprise. (See my recipe below.)

Top a medium thick base slice of the cheese polenta with barely wilted, hot, very well-drained (press the spinach in a colander and put a heavy pot on the spinach for a few minutes) steamed regular spinach, that you have buttered (perhaps use one of your frozen compound herbed butter coins from your freezer log). Be generous. A whole head of spinach only provides a cup of finished product. Again, you can prepare the spinach ahead of time, but don’t refrigerate unless absolutely necessary.

I keep containers of my goat cheese spinach grilled sandwich filling in the freezer to use with my omelettes, and this would save on time if you thaw and choose to use it in this mille-feuille assembly.

Position another equal measured slice of set polenta on top. Dust with grated mixed wonderful dry cheeses as a bed for fresh very firm, seared on high heat in just a smear of unsalted butter, thick slices of white button mushrooms dusted with thyme, nutmeg and lots of fresh ground pepper. A few grains of salt. Careful. You don’t want the mushrooms to weep.

Spoon just a little of my (made earlier) caramelized onions on top of the mushrooms, and top with a matching size third polenta layer.

Top with pre-cooked, then pan-fried in sweet butter, crushed cooked chestnuts (you can buy beautiful readymade chestnuts in specialty packages, or purchase most top-grade chestnut purée and spread generously. Drizzle with just a tiny bit of noisette. Or deglaze the mushroom sauté pan using Offley Royal Ruby port or Asbach Uralt cognac, and drizzle over the top layer just when ready to serve.

Serve with a long blade sharp steak knife and a long tined fork and a generous size spoon, so not a drop of this delicious treat will be missed.

A rather rustic presentation, it will look its finest served in the centre of an oversized dinner plate, perhaps a heavier weight high-grade ceramic plate, warmed with very hot water, rather than on a delicate fine china.

For a full-sized meal, a side serving of medium rare roast duck, venison or lamb could be a nice addition for a very filling dinner meal.

The polenta mille-feuille on its own is a terrific breakfast/brunch. But you might consider topping with two poached runny yolk eggs with freshly made hollandaise, along with a side dish of my grated coarse tomato pulp. For something attractive for the brunch/breakfast presentation, maybe a grouping of yellow tomato, white tomato, red and green tomato pulp, each in its own little serving dish.

ALTERNATE: If you choose to buy ready made store-bought polenta, it often comes packaged in a large log shape (ideally bought from a high reputation Italian shop). Simply cut large coins perhaps a half-inch-thick and proceed to stack and fill as above and serve, layered, in the round.

You could offer a fabulous seafood version by insetting in the middle layer, chunks of fresh warmed lobster claw meat, or crab or shrimp, drizzled with your melted frozen lobster compound butter coins from your frozen log and/or a drizzle of your homemade lobster oil.

My aioli two ways – special aioli sauce uses – and a surprise or two (poached and deep-fried garlic, too…)

Use my homemade mayonnaise as a base. Quick and easy to prepare, this mayo will keep in a sterilized screw top glass jar, refrigerated, for six months, so if you live alone or have a small family, there is no need to buy mayonnaise when you can make your own that lasts, with no preservatives of any kind.

In a baked enamel cast-iron pot, measure about a third full of Mazola Corn Oil and heat. Add a dozen individual generous-sized peeled garlic cloves. Increase heat. Poach in the simmering oil until the garlic is mashable; remove the garlic cloves from the oil with a slotted spoon, allow to cool just briefly, and coarsely chop the garlic and add to two cups of mayo. Add herbs or spices if you like, but it’s not necessary. This aioli can be used as is, or mash blue cheese into the mix. An amazing sauce with beef, pork, chicken or seafood,

If you have made crab cakes or mixed seafood cakes, a dollop of either sauce on top is wonderful.

Check out my faux blini and serve with this sauce on a bed of Boston Bibb hydroponically grown lettuce. A little dish of lemon quarters might add to the flavour when squeezed just before indulging.

Serve the cakes on lettuce mounded on a thick slice of my beautiful Boston brown bread baked in a tin such as a large tomato tin. I used to use coffee tins when coffee was packed in real cans, back in the 1960s. Yes, that’s 60 years ago.

Here’s another way to use the aioli: marinate a boneless, skinless chicken breast, or boneless, skinless chicken thighs, in seasoned buttermilk overnight. Seasoning can be paprika, pepper, a sprinkle of thyme and a pinch of nutmeg. I prefer not to salt marinade. Salt the meat when ready to cook.

Pat the chicken dry and dredge the marinated chicken breast in seasoned flour. Deep-fry in the leftover garlic oil pot, at about 350 F. The chicken should cook perfectly in 5-7 minutes, depending on thickness. Salt immediately again when finished deep frying. This is a great, quick way to make dinner when you come home from work, having started the chicken the day before.

Carve the deep-fried chicken breast on the diagonal and drizzle with either aioli and serve on the Boston brown bread or on a grilled brioche, with a handful of fresh watercress.

For a side dish, soak half-inch onion rings in fresh (unused) buttermilk for a couple of hours. Dredge in seasoned semolina flour and deep fry quickly. The onion rings will be cooked when they turn crisp and golden.

You can use the same oil you used for the garlic and the chicken, if you are making onion rings simultaneously. But otherwise, start with fresh oil. At the end of the cooking session, toss the oil. Do not plan to use it another day.

Drain the onion rings on a cookie rack lined with white paper towel. Salt as soon as you remove from the oil. Perhaps sprinkle some of the onion rings with a little cayenne (definitely not if serving to children). Cayenne can actually burn your throat tissue, so if you are not familiar with using it, tread gently at first. It’s simply hot peppers.

Drizzle with just a little of the aioli when ready to serve, or use the aioli as a dipping sauce.

You might want to offer either sauce as an accompaniment with sautéed seared or breaded sea scallops. Serve on a bed of shredded mixed lettuce greens. Chop a bit of fresh parsley and/or watercress and add to the aioli.

Or: shred in fine strips on the diagonal, using a very sharp knife, perfectly cooked medium rare prime rib steak, and use the shredded steak to fill a freshly made Yorkshire pudding that you baked using the beef drippings. Deflate and fill the hole with the thinly sliced beef, and serve immediately, topping with a drizzle of the garlic blue cheese aioli.

Now, for those who can never get enough garlic, a special treat.

Having prepared the poached in oil garlic cloves (make as many as you like), immediately when they are barely tender to the point of a sharp knife prick, using a slotted spoon, remove the garlic from the simmering oil pot and place on a white absorbent paper towel on a cake cooling rack.

Quickly whisk together your favourite light batter, even one made with beer. Toss in the whole garlic cloves. Retrieve with a small slotted spoon to let the excess batter drip off, and slide the garlic cloves into 350 F oil in the pot you just poached them in. When the batter is crisp and golden (in just a couple of minutes) remove with the large slotted spoon and place onto a fresh paper towel.

Sprinkle with salt, a few herbs and or spices, and serve at once, alongside any favourite dish. You will find the garlic is medium mild and not at all overpowering. Simply delicious as a nibble treat or with any meat, seafood or poultry dish (a great balance with game), perhaps with a pasta dish, or even as a special salad topper.

© “From Lady Ralston’s Kitchen: A Canadian Contessa Cooks” Turning everyday meal making into a Gourmet Experience 

The working title for Carolyne’s Gourmet Recipes cookbook is From Lady Ralston’s Kitchen: A Canadian Contessa Cooks. This kitchen-friendly doyenne has been honoured and referred to as the grande dame of executive real estate in her market area during her 35-year career. She taught gourmet cooking in the mid-70s and wrote a weekly newspaper cooking column, long before gourmet was popular as it is today. Her ebook, Gourmet Cooking - at Home with Carolyne is available here for $5.99 US. Email Carolyne. Scroll down to the comments at each recipe column. Carolyne often adds complimentary "From Lady Ralston's Kitchen" additional recipes in the Recipes for Realtors Comments section at REM.



    Let’s do a different type of polenta savoury treat. Using two 9″ round springform baking pans, let my savoury polenta recipe set up in two equal portions. Set up over night in the refrigerator.

    Release each springform pan and slice each half in half, making four thin layers. It is easy to do, carefully, using a long thin serrated knife. (Some readers like to use unwaxed dental floss.)

    Between the layers, fill with mounds of your favourite chicken salad and fresh shredded crispy iceberg lettuce. Spritz the chicken salad with Noilly Prat. Add a few globs of your favourite blue cheese and or Brie/Camembert to top each chicken salad layer. Sprinkle with a little dried deep-fried fresh sage from your pantry jar, crushed, and a little minced fresh rosemary and fresh lemon thyme.
    Cover the final top layer with slices of firm raw white button mushrooms in a concentric circle until the whole top of the polenta cake is covered. Poke a few of your mandolin sliced, deep-fried crunchy beets and other root vegetable chips, sprinkled with hand-cultured Atlantic Ocean Amagansett finishing salt, standing in-between the mushroom circle rows, just when ready to eat so the chips stay crunchy.

    For an eye-candy presentation serve a wedge cake-like portion on a black pie plate with a puddle of my warm blue cheese salad dressing on which you have scattered a few tiny baby pickled bottled red beets sold in glass jars from Germany Kuhne brand, available in many grocery stores and deli’s.

    Let set up in the refrigerator over night covered in cling film if you are not serving immediately and don’t add the chips yet. Use a long wet serrated knife to cut wedges. To make equal size wedges, first cut Polenta Cake in half, then in half again, crosswise. Now you have four equal size large wedges. Cut each of the four large wedges in half to make a suitable serving size. Plate upright or lay wedges on their sides.

    This amazing polenta cake will impress any guest, and can be made ahead of time.

    ALTERNATE: Prepare a filling using mounds of thinly sliced lox (or frozen paper thin layer of Norwegian Steelhead Salmon) spritzed with Jack Daniels’ Tennessee whiskey, drizzle with just a little sugar syrup and honey or maple syrup. Maybe for the second layer a confit of fresh blueberries with a sheet of gelatine folded in (let set). Spread evenly between the top two set solid polenta layers. If filling with lox you might want to top the Polenta Cake with my Tennessee Whiskey lox roses.

    © Spirits in My Kitchen: Lady Ralston – Canadian Cooking with Bouquets and Aromas – Good Food Made Better Adding Spirits

  2. Polenta Perfection ~ Bars or Balls or Scoops (even deep-fried)

    This is my personal original polenta recipe that is many years old. I likely made it for the first time in the mid-1980’s. Several tries and I finally got it to where I kept it without changes for all the years (except for the change-up of cheeses that were not available back then).

    Bring 3 cups of rich homemade, clear, chicken broth to a soft boil in a generous stovetop pot. Add one cup of German Winzertanz or your favourite sweet but tart white wine. When liquid comes back to a soft boil, stir in one generous cup of ground cornmeal. Add salt, pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg.

    Whisk continuously until the mixture is quite thick as liquid is enveloped. This whisking will take a while, so be patient. Keep the pot on medium high, adjusting to lower temperature as mixture thickens. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in one cup of your favourite cheese, grated on the large side of a box grater. Sartino BelleVitano Raspberry Ale cheese grated on the big hole side of a box grater works well. Or use real (grated at home) Parmesan, or a mix of your favourite hard cheeses. When polenta is quite thick, cooked to a texture you prefer, add a quarter cup of very cold unsalted butter cubes and just let the butter meld into the polenta, folding with a rubber spatula.

    Using the rubber spatula, pour the cooked polenta into a glass baking dish. Mine is about ten by ten inches. Pat the polenta so it is evenly distributed. Cover with cling wrap. Let set in the refrigerator until firm.

    Using a wet knife, cut the polenta into four equal size squares or rectangles. You might want to cut each rectangle into fries shape, for deep-frying, using a ruffled edge cutter.

    When ready to serve, you can deep-fry, or pan-fry in just a little sizzling butter. Or if you have other things on the BBQ or have a hot ribbed, oiled grill pan, heat the polenta; crispy edges are fine.

    You can top polenta with just about anything you have on hand: meat, poultry, fish or game. With or without a sauce. You can even top with a perfect, extra large, runny poached egg. Perhaps drizzle with freshly made hollandaise. Crumple a crispy bacon rasher over top. Maybe add a thick slice of fresh beefsteak tomato. And maybe even add shredded lettuce: iceberg or romaine works nicely.

    Any of my delicious sauces will work.
    Or serve the polenta fries as a side dish alongside a generous filled fresh lobster roll, grilled shrimp, giant king crab leg meat, or BBQ’d chicken, any cuts.

    Sliced pork loin on the side, served with once over lightly seared sliced white button mushrooms and my German Italian plum confit on a black-olive bread crostini is wonderful. Perhaps drizzle the seared mushrooms with Marsala wine for a tempting indulgence.

    Grilled marinated multi-coloured bell peppers and onions make a nice polenta topping. Sprinkle with some homemade candied walnut pieces.

    You could top with homemade candied citrus rinds from your pantry sugar jar.

    Maybe use my amazing caramelized onions, just by themselves on a slice of grilled polenta:

    = = =

    The combinations are endless.

    ALTERNATE: For a little different presentation – half-fill large muffin tin pockets with polenta. Let set.

    Turn upside down and tap gently to release. Top with seared white button mushrooms, that you have prepared once over lightly in sizzling hot unsalted butter (just sear the mushrooms and keep them firm; you don’t want rubbery mushrooms). Drizzle the mushrooms with a splash of Offley Ruby Port, or with Marsala Wine. Let liquid reduce. Pour over each polenta muffin. Or drizzle the seared mushrooms with second-season Canadian Maple Syrup.

    You could use my Sweet Green Peas in Cream Sauce recipe:

    Or totally different, you could top each polenta muffin with an extra-large, runny-yolk poached egg and Hollandaise. Maybe even add my hazelnut pesto.

    Any of my crostini, brushetta, or tapas toppings would work.

    My polenta served alongside my gourmet meatballs and roasted bell peppers would be a wonderful meal:

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    You could always prepare an off-the-charts delicious “Polenta” deep-fried patty and serve it in a hamburger bun or shape the polenta like a large sausage and pop it into a hotdog bun. After you make the desired shape, dredge the polenta patty or sausage in flour mixed with finely grated cheese (Parmesan works or Sartori Bellevitano Espresso Cheese is a nice alternative), then dip in egg wash and drain well, then dip in Panko crumbs or fresh loose homemade breadcrumbs (seasoned with your favourite herbs and spices. Leftover stale black-olive bread makes wonderful breadcrumbs.). Deep-fry in Mazola Corn Oil at 350 F. Don’t overload the pan, so as to keep the heat stable. Just fry until the crumbs turn golden. Pop into a grilled, buttered, hamburger bun or hot dog roll and drizzle with any of my aioli and or add a few drops of my hazelnut watercress pesto. If you enjoy hot chilli flakes, now’s a good time to sprinkle over the aioli. Over-the-top delicious, sprinkle a little minced candied citrus rind from your homemade sugar jar.

    Seaward bound: You could top the deep-fried breaded polenta with a little freshly made lobster salad, or mixed seafood salad for a terrific change-up. And if you have it, a little homemade lobster oil; just a drizzle. You might even want to pop it all into a burrito or a large pink sun-dried tomato tortilla. If you enjoy battered deep-fried oysters, a few strategically placed on top is a different way to serve, for sure.

    = = =

    When the polenta is just made and not yet set, using an ice cream scoop, put a large dollop of polenta on a warmed dinner plate. Using the ice cream scoop, push a generous hole in the centre of the polenta mound. Fill the hole with the goulash made using my Oxtails recipe:

    Offer any of my Salad Secrets on the side and for dessert, maybe a scoop of my homemade ice cream: peach, plum/fig, or a light Sabayon from my list of goodies.

    = = =

    Want a “polenta dessert?”

    Shape the polenta when it is cool enough to use your hands, into large ice cream scoop size balls. Let set.

    Roll each ball in sifted icing sugar to which you have added ground homemade candied citrus rinds from your sugar jar. You could mince red and green Maraschino cherries or candied fruit you might have in your pantry, leftover from Christmas baking, and include in the polenta balls before they set. Then roll in the icing sugar.

    For a different dessert polenta, chop rum-soaked golden raisins and stir into the polenta before it sets. Save the rum liquid and drizzle over the polenta balls. Or use chopped macerated black mission figs from your Asbach Uralt brandy marinating jar.

    Or you could roll the large balls in the tiny Dutch dark chocolate sprinkles for decorating baking, or even add some Baker’s dark chocolate powder dusted into the icing sugar

    Very yum surprise. And yet another: To two cups of plain icing sugar, add a couple of tablespoons of Asbach Uralt cognac or your favourite choice of a liqueur, a sprinkle of salt, and stir to liquidize. Drizzle the hard sauce over the dessert polenta balls. The spirited icing sugar will harden quickly. You could even top with warmed melted dark chocolate, and or sprinkle with sweet flaked coconut. You might like to top the chocolate with freshly made sugared bacon bits.

    © “From Lady Ralston’s Kitchen: A Canadian Contessa Cooks”
    Turning everyday meal making into a Gourmet Experience

    = = =

  3. Ribbed Polenta Fries (could even be a Sandwich, or Nuggets)

    After your cheesy polenta to which you have added minced herbs of your choice (fresh basil or mint works well) has set in a sheet pan that has edges, using a serrated knife, cut the polenta in half across the width and across the length. Continue cutting, dividing equally till you have approximately 4″ squares. Gently lift the polenta squares using a malleable egg turner and place the squares on a chopping board.

    Then using a ribbed cutter, cut each 4″ square in half and each strip in half again. You have four thick giant French fry shapes from each piece.

    (You could continue cutting until you have cut the whole polenta sheet into generous equal size, square nuggets; deep-fry quickly and serve hot, sprinkled with salt and if you like, a dusting of cayenne powder.)

    Using a spider or a large slotted spoon, gently tip the polenta fries into Mazola Corn Oil at 350 F. Fry just until crispy and golden rich colour.

    Serve four or eight fries with my Tomato Butter or my Spectacular Barbecue Serving Sauce for dipping.

    You could make a mix of deep-fried extraordinary fries by serving alongside my Zucchini Fries.

    Want to impress your table: make a tiny polenta sandwich… Spread a square of golden deep-fried polenta with your favourite softened Celebrity Canadian cream goat cheese; maybe use the Honey Dill log. (There’s so many to choose from.) Top with another deep-fried polenta slice.

    If you are serving straight from the deep-fryer, perhaps top your hot polenta sandwich with one or two of my compound butter coins knocked off a frozen log. Don’t touch. The butter will soften sitting on the hot polenta sandwich and the butter will melt gradually, revealing super delicious accent.

    Serving suggestion: Delightful served alongside any of my salads; perhaps check out my column “Unexpected Salad Delights.”

    Gourmet cooking is as simple as this. You can cook for one or make multiples to feed a crowd simply by adjusting quantities. If feeding a group, prepare the polenta and set up a day ahead. Cover the sheet pan in cling wrap and leave overnight in the refrigerator. Cut just before deep-frying. Don’t overload the deep-fry oil pan, as this will quickly reduce the needed temperature so the polenta won’t get soggy, but get crunchy and crispy. So delicious!

    ALTERNATE Sandwich: You might choose to add fresh poached lobster chunks between the deep-fried polenta sandwich squares, with or without the cream cheese. Drizzle with cognac figgy jus if you have it.

    You might like slices of firm fresh thick (white, yellow, red or even ripe green) tomato between the thick deep-fried polenta slices, and maybe add a rasher or two of crispy bacon and a wedge slice of iceberg lettuce for an unusual BLT. You could even add a perfectly fried egg, done once over easy so when you cut into your polenta sandwich the runny yolk will drizzle over the other BLT filling.

    Another simple polenta sandwich: Use a thick slice of leftover homemade meatloaf as filling. Perhaps drizzle the meatloaf slice with my Hazelnut Watercress Pesto or my Caesar Salad Dressing.

    Serve with a sharp serrated steak knife for easy cutting the combination.

    This polenta sandwich is a perfect treat to serve if you operate a bed and breakfast. Your guests will surely appreciate the unusual plate. Perhaps keep a heap of polenta nuggets on hand for last-minute deep-frying as a snack or late-night treat for incoming guests.

    © “From Lady Ralston’s Kitchen: A Canadian Contessa Cooks”
    Turning everyday meal making into a Gourmet Experience

  4. Deep-fried Polenta Balls

    Prepare your favourite polenta. I make mine simply with cornmeal, full-flavoured homemade chicken stock and dried Parmesan cheese granules.

    Using a small ice cream scoop, place the warm polenta scoops on a white paper towel lined cake rack. Let cool just a little, shape into balls and air dry. Dust the polenta balls with seasoned flour as you use for making schnitzel. Dip each polenta ball in egg wash and then in homemade breadcrumbs.

    Deep-fry the polenta breaded balls in 350 F Mazola Corn Oil, just long enough to crisp the breadcrumbs. Just a few seconds. Remove using a spoon with holes or use a spider. Gently tip the very hot balls onto fresh white paper towel on a cake rack. Sprinkle with salt, a little fresh ground pepper, and if you like it a little cayenne pepper. You might choose to sprinkle with sweet red paprika.

    To serve, using two forks, pull each ball apart and top with a drizzle of my “Spectacular Barbecue Serving Sauce.” You might choose to drop a little of my Watercress Hazelnut Pesto, instead. My crushed walnuts in oil, a pantry favourite at my house, is also a nice dipper.

    Arranged on a bed of shredded crispy lettuce spritzed with red wine vinegar and light extra virgin olive oil 1:3 is an ideal way to serve.

    You could introduce a bed of very fresh chiffonade of beet greens, instead, as an extra special treat.

    Less is more when served on an extra large plate, just positioned off-centre. You could present a gentle swash of sauce on the exposed plate and let your eyes enjoy as much as your palate. A high-class way to serve a rustic favourite.

    When you are preparing the polenta balls, you might like to add a little minced red tiny tear drop peppers from Peru: They are called “Sweety Drops” and are red or yellow. For this dish, I prefer to use the red ones, so you can see the little red bits in the balls. I reserve the yellow Sweety Drops for adding to some salads. The Sweety Drops are neither sweet nor bitter; quite an unusual imported specialty product, the drops are very tiny.

    ALTERNATE SERVING: Offer the deep-fried polenta balls family style, served alongside my “Stuffing Balls,”

    or add to breaded deep-fried meatballs; or, make a whole deep-fried balls table selection on a buffet or for taking along to a pot luck. Reheat in a pre-heated low temperature oven for ten minutes, or even serve at room temperature.

    Note: There is an imported, unique to our country, product available in my area, imported from Croatia, called: “Matitia Sour Cherry Spread.” A most unusual taste, the cherries grow in abundance in Croatia. Extremely tasty, not quite sweet, and likely would appeal to those who have a European palate. Perhaps use an espresso spoon to dab a little of the sour cherry spread on the Deep-fried Polenta Balls to offer another choice when serving.

    You might consider positioning a deep-fried polenta ball on the root end of a raw white Belgian Endive leaf, as another way to serve, as an hors d’ouvres amuse bouche (the one-bite concept is easy to handle). Using a large circular platter, arrange the endive leaves with the ball-end towards the centre, and use the space in the middle for presenting a small bowl of my “mini-puffs.” With an assorted cheese board with help-yourself generous wedges nearby, everyone can help themselves.

    Maybe check out my recipe:
    Croatia Sour Matatia Cherry Spread and Roasted Garlic Marrow Bones Send me a private note and I will personally forward this rather special recipe directly to you.

    © “From Lady Ralston’s Kitchen: A Canadian Contessa Cooks”
    Turning everyday meal making into a Gourmet Experience


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