This dish is modeled after one I enjoyed during a leisurely three-hour lunch on my last day of work, where my (ex-)coworkers and I managed to polish of two bottles of Prosecco among the three of us. Now, granted, anything would taste pretty good after that much Prosecco. But it was the image of this dish that stuck with me: an elegant, beautifully fried polenta steak piled high with delicately shaved summer squash, fresh corn kernels, and julienned basil. Normally I’m not a huge fan of combining a piping hot protein straight out of the oven with a cold, raw topping. But the quality of the summer vegetables made them perfectly crunchy and vibrant, and they complimented the creamy, sharpness of the Parmesan polenta and the salty, smokiness of the crumbled speck on top.
From my kitchen, albeit small, to yours,
Phoebe, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
Parmesan Polenta Steaks with Heirloom Tomato-Corn Salad and Crispy Prosciutto
Makes 4 large polenta steaks
For the salad:
3 medium heirloom tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2 ears corn, kernels removed
¼ lb fresh mozzarella or boccacini, roughly shredded or chopped
3 tbsp chopped basil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small summer squash, quartered and thinly sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp salt
For the polenta:
1 cup polenta
2 cups water or chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream (or you can just substitute water)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp fresh thyme (optional)
salt to taste
olive oil or canola oil for frying
4 slices prosciutto
In a medium stock pot, bring water and cream to a boil over medium-high heat. Slowly pour the polenta into the pot in a gentle stream, while whisking briskly. Turn the heat down to low and cook, stirring constantly, for ten minutes, or until almost all the liquid is absorbed. Add the cheese and butter and whisk to combine. Taste for seasoning, and add salt as necessary.
Butter an 8 x 8 inch baking dish and evenly distribute the polenta. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.
Fill a large skillet or Dutch oven with about an inch of oil, and place it over high heat. Remove the polenta from the fridge and cut it into 4 squares. Pat dry each steak dry, and add to the pan, two at a time. Fry each steak on both sides until brown and crispy, about 3-4 minutes per side. Remove the steaks to a paper towel to drain.
While the oil is still hot, add the prosciutto one slice at a time and quickly fry on both sides, about a minute. Set aside to drain.
In the meantime, combine all ingredients for the salad in a medium mixing bowl. Toss until all ingredients are well incorporated and taste for seasoning.
Arrange polenta steaks on a large platter or on individual plates and top with the salad mixture. Garnish with some coarsely torn basil and, for the meat eaters, a handful of crumbled crispy prosciutto.