I’m always on the hunt for easy, delicious appetizers that can be made in advance. Not really because I’m constantly throwing dinner parties or catering events. Mostly, because I love to eat tapas-style. Lots of little dishes, snacks and treats. Lots different flavors. Lots of sips of wine. Our dinner Saturday night consisted of: Truffle Pate, Gruyere cheese with jam and crackers, garlic-marinated fresh anchovies (boquerones), these polenta rounds and a nice bottle of Casa Lapostolle Cuvee Alexandre Merlot. (We visited this vineyard in Chile – wonderful!)
Though everything was great, these polenta rounds really stole the show. I cheated and used the polenta in a tube to save some time, but brushed it with olive oil and grilled to get those nice char lines and enhance their flavor. On top went red onions and shiitake mushrooms that I sauteed in butter and Gorgonzola cheese. Ran them under the broiler for a few minutes, then drizzled with balsamic syrup. They were just incredible. The mushrooms were almost meaty, the onions sweet, the cheese sufficiently funky and the balsamic syrupy and tart. A very successful appetizer and definitely a keeper.
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You’ll have leftover balsamic syrup. This will keep in a sealed jar in the fridge for a few months.
1 tbsp. olive oil
18 oz. polenta tube (or about 2 cups cooked and set polenta cut into squares)
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
1 lb. shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and thinly sliced
1/4 lb. Gorgonzola Picante cheese
1 cup balsamic vinegar
Place the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan and set over medium heat. Once it comes to a boil, reduce to low and cook for 20 – 30 minutes, or until the vinegar reduces and becomes syrupy. It’s done when it coats the back of a spoon or silicone spatula. Remove from heat and set aside.
While the balsamic is reducing, heat a large skillet over medium-high. Once it’s hot, melt the butter and add the onions. Cook for about 10 minutes, or until the onions soften and begin to brown. Add the mushrooms and cook for another 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
If you have a grill pan, place it over medium-high heat. (If you don’t, a regular skillet will be fine.) Slice the polenta into 1/2-inch rounds and brush both sides with olive oil. Grill for about 3 minutes on each side or until the polenta turns golden and develops grill lines. Remove them to an oven-safe platter.
Top each polenta round with a heaping spoonful of the onions and mushrooms. Crumble some Gorgonzola over each round, then run them under your broiler for about 3 minutes, or until the cheese just melts. Remove and drizzle with some balsamic syrup.
Makes about 12 rounds.