Savory Polenta with Roasted Butternut Squash

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This can be prepared as a simple savory polenta, but for a real treat add roasted butternut squash and a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar.

Serves: 4

INGREDIENTS

3 pounds, butternut squash – cut in half and seeded
2 tablespoons, il Fustino Extra Virgin olive oil
3/4 cup, red onion – finely chopped
2 cloves, garlic – finely chopped
1 quart, chicken or vegetable Stock
1 cup, polenta or coarse ground corn meal
5 tablespoons, unsalted butter (divided)
1 teaspoon, kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon, freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces, Parmesan cheese – grated
2 tablespoons, il Fustino aged balsamic vinegar – optional

METHOD

  1. For roasted butternut squash:
  2. If you are preparing the polenta with butternut squash, cut the butternut squash in half and scoop out the seeds.
  3. Place squash halves in a foil lined baking pan and dot each half with a tablespoon of butter, sprinkle with kosher salt and a good amount of fresh ground black pepper. Cover with aluminum foil.
  4. Bake squash in 350 degree oven for two hours, until it is soft. Remove and let it cool. With a large spoon, scoop out squash from skin and reserve.
  5. For savory polenta:
  6. In a large oven-safe saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the red onion and sweat until the onions begin to turn translucent, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, add the garlic, and saute for 1 to 2 minutes, making sure the garlic does not burn.
  7. Turn the heat up to high, add the chicken or vegetable stock, bring to a boil. Gradually add the cornmeal while continually whisking. Once you have added all the cornmeal, cover the pot. You may place it in a 350 degree preheated oven, or reduce the heat to low and cook over the burner. In either case, you must stir it every few minutes or so. After about 30 to 40 minutes, it will become creamy.
  8. Remove from the oven or burner and add the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter, salt and pepper. Once they are incorporated, gradually add the Parmesan.
  9. Polenta may be served at this point. If you are preparing the squash version, return polenta to the burner and stir in the squash to incorporate it thoroughly with the polenta and heat the mixture prior to serving.
  10. Serve drizzled with a small amount of balsamic vinegar

Cooking in the oven is the easiest way to prepare this; you only need to stir it every 10 minutes. But cooking on the stovetop causes a bit of the polenta at the bottom of the pan to brown or even burn a bit, which adds a distinctive smoky flavor to the dish. You must stir the stovetop version fairly frequently.

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