I love simple ingredients as they tend to work symbiotically to create great flavors. Less is more…I know this sounds cliché but it’s true and not just in the food world. The more ingredients you use the greater the risk of losing the essential flavor of your food. When the ingredients are good, they need minimal help to make them better. This recipe is easy to make and with only five ingredients, it’s a winner. These polenta sticks with smoked mozzarella peeking out of the salami will be a hit at your next dinner party. Cornmeal, the golden-yellow polenta, is a culinary staple in Northern Italy. Polenta is a neutral flavored dish that can be used as a base to carry other flavors. Using a medium grind cornmeal will yield the best results. Look for ‘stone ground’ cornmeal on the label.
Serves 4 as an antipasto
1/2 cup cornmeal (packaging may also say polenta)
2 cups water or chicken stock
pinch of salt
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or aged cheddar cheese
fennel salami (or favorite salami), thinly sliced
To make the polenta sticks, place water and salt in a large pot. Bring to a boil then slowly add the cornmeal, stirring occasionally. Cook over medium heat for 20 minutes (if using instant cornmeal, the time is shortened to about 10 minutes). Remove from heat and add a tablespoon of butter. Stir until butter is melted then add the cheese. On an 8-inch plate, grease with 1 tablespoon of olive oil then pour polenta on top. Smooth to edges of plate and allow polenta to cool to temperature. Once cool, cut into strips.
Preheat oven to 400f (200c). To assemble, place a thick slice of mozzarella on top of the polenta and wrap a piece of salami around it. Place on a large cookie sheet with parchment paper. Bake 10 minutes or until cheese has softened. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly…you don’t want these piping hot when you serve them as the flavor intensifies when warm.
The Culinary Chase’s Note: You can make the polenta the night before. When ready to assemble, remove from fridge and slice into sticks. To keep things looking more uniform, cut the polenta based on the length of the mozzarella slices. If the salami slices are larger than the polenta sticks, fold under (like I did) to make it fit before wrapping. Enjoy!