Polenta Cakes with Pancetta, Oven Roasted Green Beans and Cherry-Black Pepper Syrup

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If you’ve never tried making polenta, now’s the time! 

I think polenta is one of those things that either 1) sounds way more difficult than it really is or 2) sounds like it might just taste like nothing. After all, it’s just ground cornmeal, right?

Not so, my friends. Not so! Give this recipe a shot and take your taste buds on a little adventure.

(p.s. Did you know polenta is gluten free? Just in case that’s a little extra enticement for you.)

Polenta Cakes
Ingredients:                                                               
3 C chicken stock                
1 C yellow cornmeal                                                                      
Four ¼” slices Pancetta, chopped                                            
2 T unsalted butter                                                                           
2 tsp salt     
2 T all purpose flour                                                                       
1 T olive oil

Equipment:
Medium sauce pot
Whisk
Mixing spoon    
Measuring cups and spoons
Baking pan
Large skillet

Instructions:
In a large skillet, fry the chopped pancetta over medium heat until crisp. Transfer the cooked pancetta to a paper towel lined bowl and set aside. Reserve 1 T of the rendered fat.

Bring the chicken stock to a boil. Add the salt. Whisk the cornmeal in gradually, then reduce the heat to low. Cook for about 15 minutes, or until the mixture thickens and the cornmeal is soft and tender. Stir often. When the polenta is fully cooked, remove from the heat and add 2 T of the cooked pancetta and the butter. Stir until the butter is melted.

Pour the hot polenta into a baking pan. Spread it out in the pan until it’s about ¾” thick. Allow the polenta to firm up in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

When firm, cut the polenta into four 4” circles. Dredge lightly on all sides with flour, and fry in the reserved pancetta fat and 1 T of olive oil until golden brown on both sides.

Oven Roasted Green Beans
Ingredients:                                                                           
1 lb fresh green beans, ends trimmed                                  
1 tsp sea salt                                                                          
2 T olive oil                                                                            

Equipment:
Baking Sheet
Tongs
Large bowl

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 400°. Toss the trimmed green beans with the salt and olive oil in a bowl until the green beans are well coated. Spread out evenly on a baking sheet and roast for 14 minutes, stirring halfway through for even browning.

Cherry-Black Pepper Syrup
Ingredients:                                                                           

1/2 C Pure cherry juice 
1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper            

Equipment:
Measuring cups & spoons
Small sauce pot

Bring the cherry juice to a boil. Lower the heat to medium low and add the black pepper. Reduce the liquid by half, or until thickened and syrupy. Keep over very low heat until ready to serve.

Construction:
Place each polenta cake in the center of a small plate. Arrange 6-8 green beans on top. Drizzle the cherry-black pepper syrup over each polenta cake and around plate, then sprinkle ½ tablespoon of the remaining cooked pancetta around the plate to garnish.

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