Okay, sad but true, I've never made polenta before. If I have, I don't remember it. I had no idea how easy it was. This recipe and variations of it will be on my menu rotation. The original recipe was from Mario Batalia, but I made changes to it - I just can't help myself. He called for 5 cups of water, but all the other recipes for firm polenta said 3.5 cups of liquid for 1 cup of polenta. I went in the middle and did 4 cups of water and that worked well, the polenta was soft, but not runny. I also cut my asparagus. This doesn't seem like a knife-needed recipe so I cut them. I used more garlic that 3 cloves, but that's just because the cloves were small. I doubled the prosciutto and halved the spring onions. The lemon, to me, is absolutely required. It makes all the difference in the dish.
Soft Polenta with Asparagus, Prosciutto, Garlic and Scallions
4 cups water
1 pound asparagus, trimmed, and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup mascarpone cheese
6 Tbs butter, divided
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
6 slices of prosciutto, julienne
1 bunch scallions or spring onions, slices
juice and zest of one lemon
Bring water to boil in a saucepan. Add asparagus and cook until tender, about 30 seconds to one minute. Remove from water and hold in a bowl until needed. Return water to a boil and whisking constantly, add the cornmeal. Stir until thick. Remove from heat, stir in
mascarpone cheese, cover and sit aside.
In a saute pan, heat 4 Tbs of butter until foaming over medium heat. Add garlic, onion, and prosciutto and saute until the onions are wilted. Add asparagus and lemon juice and zest. Add remaining butter to make a sauce. Taste and season with salt. To serve, place polenta in a soup plate, top with onion/asparagus mixture. Serve with grated Parmesan on the side.
Evaluation: The consistency of the polenta was just what I wanted. I think the Parmesan was helpful as I didn't salt the polenta very much not knowing how much salt the prosciutto would bring to the party. Lemon - absolutely necessary. I might cut back on the amount of the asparagus to balance it a bit more with everything and likely double the amount of prosciutto. I think this presents lots of opportunities to change ingredients, such as half some cherry tomatoes or some sliced mushrooms with garlic, use some spinach - changing the sauteed ingredients as different vegetables come into season.