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Polenta with Mascarpone and Caramelized Shallots with Chunky Tomato Sauce

This soothing classic becomes velvet with the addition of mascarpone. It is topped with a simple tomato sauce. A variation would be to top the polenta with two or three kinds of mushrooms sautéed with a couple of sliced shallots in half butter, half olive oil and seasoned with thyme. Leftovers: Pack polenta into a small loaf pan lined with plastic wrap and chill. Sauté slices in butter/olive oil till nicely browned and serve with a spoonful of tomato sauce and a bit of gorgonzola.

4 small shallots or one small onion, sliced thin (cut onion slices in half)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons butter
5 1/2 cups chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth
1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley
Freshly ground pepper
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for garnish
Gorgonzola cheese for garnish (optional)

Tomato Sauce:
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small onion
28-ounce can whole plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano brand, available in the Strip and in Italian markets
1 cup chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley

Polenta: Sauté shallots in butter and olive oil on medium-low heat about 15 minutes, or until tender and brown. Meanwhile bring chicken stock to boil in large saucepan. Reduce heat to medium. Gradually whisk in cornmeal. Cook until mixture is creamy, stirring occasionally, for about 20 to 25 minutes, adding additional stock or hot water as necessary to keep the polenta soft. Polenta should mound softly on the spoon. Remove from heat. Mix in shallots, mascarpone and parsley. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Tomato sauce: Sauté garlic and onion in olive oil in heavy non-reactive skillet until soft. Use kitchen scissors to chop whole tomatoes in the can, then pour tomatoes into skillet. Cook over medium-low heat (mixture should bubble gently) for about 30 to 40 minutes, or until tomato sauce is thick. Sauce will be quite chunky. Check seasoning, adding salt if necessary.

To serve: Spoon polenta into heated pasta bowls. With slotted spoon, spoon tomato mixture over each. Garnish with chopped parsley and Parmigiano-Reggiano, shaved, or gorgonzola cheese, crumbled. Serves 6 to 8.

Thursday, July 15, 1999

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