Mini polenta rounds are a great base for a large range of meaty or meat-less hors d’oeuvres. They’re also cost effective and easy to make for a large crowd. For my dad’s surprise 60th birthday party, I topped these mini herbed polenta rounds with sauteed cremini mushrooms tossed in balsamic cream. They were one of the party favourites.
Mini Polenta Rounds Recipe
makes 30 to 50 pieces; adapted from Lemons and Anchovies
4 cups of ground corn meal
8 cups chicken or vegetable stock
5 cups water
2 cups finely grated parmigiano reggiano or pecorino cheese
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
Optional: small bunch of fresh herbs of your choice, finely chopped (Note: I like using thyme for this recipe. The original recipe called for sage.)
Place a silpat or silicone mat on a baking sheet. Then brush the silpat mat and the sides of the pan with olive oil and set the baking sheet aside. Meanwhile, in a large heavy bottomed pot, bring the stock and water to a rolling boil, covered, over high heat. Use a wooden spoon to stir in the ground corn meal and herbs. Immediately reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring constantly, until the polenta thickens and starts to separate from the sides of the pan when stirred, about 10 to 15 minutes. Be sure to stir quickly and constantly. Otherwise, the polenta will bubble, splatter and burn you. Then stir in the butter and cheese until melted and well combined. From this point on, you must work very quickly. Pour all of the polenta into your prepared baking sheet. Then immediately use a rubber spatula to quickly spread the polenta evenly across the baking sheet and smooth out the top. The polenta will begin to cool and set very soon. Allow the polenta to cool completely. This will take at least 30 minutes. Note that the polenta rounds may be made a day or two in advance and stored, covered with plastic wrap, in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature prior to broiling.
Preheat the oven to broil. Use a round cookie cutter of your desired size (small enough that the polenta round will stay in one piece when picked up with two fingers, and large enough that the polenta round needs two or three bites to be completely consumed) and cut out rounds of polenta. Simply press the cookie cutter straight down into the polenta, give it a twist to ensure a clean cut, and then lift it out. Transfer the cut out polenta rounds to another olive oil greased baking sheet. Repeat until you have run out of polenta and then brush the tops of the polenta rounds with olive oil. Broil in the oven until the tops and edges of the polenta rounds have browned nicely. Place toppings and sauce of your choice atop each of the polenta rounds and serve immediately.