Several years ago I discovered Food52er Jennifer Perillo’s simply perfect, utterly foolproof Creamy Homemade Ricotta. Once you’ve made the ricotta, you can use the luscious, flavorful whey in baked goods, creamy soups and especially, polenta. I prefer to roast polenta when not serving it soft, using the method recommended by Judy Rodgers in her recipe for herbed polenta in “The Zuni Café Cookbook,” which recipe I’ve adapted here, using whey instead of water. I like thyme with apples and I like winter savory with thyme, so I use both in the polenta. You could just as easily use pears, substituting whatever herbs appeal to you, if you like. NB, my friends: Perillo’s ricotta produces by far the tastiest whey of any ricotta I’ve made, so for the best polenta, you really should use that recipe. I add 2 fresh bay leaves at the outset to infuse the cheese and whey very lightly. You can leave them out if you like. Also, please note that you’ll have about 1 ½ cups of whey left over. You should freeze it to use another time. If you want to make polenta for another recipe, simply fill out the remaining ½ cup of liquid with water. I hope you enjoy this. ;o) —AntoniaJames
Test Kitchen Notes
I've always hated throwing out the leftover whey from ricotta-making and now that I have AntoniaJames's fine method for make beautifully creamy ricotta, I'll never discard whey again. This recipe produces an impressive, attractive dish with great layers of flavor. But be aware that it is a multi-step, possibly multi-day, affair—not a quick breakfast to pull together at the last minute. Also, be sure to read the recipe all the way through to the end before you start as there are some important notes you need for the beginning! —vrunka
4 cups ricotta whey, from Jennifer Perillo’s Creamy Homemade Ricotta
1 cup coarse cornmeal (preferably organic)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh winter savory
2 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Scant 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ stick (2 ounces) salted butter, divided in half
5 medium apples (use a firm but not too tart variety)
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 batch of Creamy Homemade Ricotta (see note below) -- Save the whey!!
1/3 cup pure maple syrup (or more to taste), warmed
Bacon for six
In This Recipe
Bring to a boil several cups of water in the bottom piece of a double boiler. Put all of the polenta ingredients, except the cheese and nutmeg, in the top half of the double boiler and stir gently.
Cook for about 30 minutes, stirring gently every few minutes. (Check to make sure the bottom pan doesn’t go dry during that period. Add more water if necessary. It shouldn’t be, but you never know.) After 30 minutes, the polenta should be somewhat thick, but not stiff.
Stir in the cheese, turn off the heat, then cover the polenta, leaving it in the double boiler, over the hot water. Let it sit for at least 45 minutes.
Put the polenta in a generously buttered 8” square baking dish. Cover the surface with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Heat oven to 375 degrees.
Melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Brush it on the polenta. Score, then cut the polenta into 6 rectangles or 12 triangles, as you like.
While the polenta is roasting, peel , core and slice the apples. Saute them in the remaining butter over medium heat, until slightly tender, about 5 or 6 minutes. (They should still be a bit firm.)
Sprinkle on the nutmeg and toss gently.
Serve roasted polenta with a healthy dollop of ricotta, topped with the apples, and then drizzle maple syrup over, to taste. Bacon on the side seals the deal.
I do hope you enjoy this. Yours affectionately, AntoniaJames ;o)
N.B. When making the ricotta for this, I add two fresh bay leaves at the same time that I put all of the ingredients for the ricotta into the pot. I tear them gently 3 or 4 times to release more of their flavor, as they infuse the milk. Remove them when separating the curds from the whey. ;o)
Here is a link to the only ricotta recipe you'll ever need: http://www.food52.com/recipes/11403_creamy_homemade_ricotta Jennifer Perillo's recipe for "Jennie's Homemade Manicotti" is also to-die-for, incidentally. ;o)
When I'm not working (negotiating transactions for internet companies), or outside enjoying the gorgeous surroundings here in the San Francisco Bay Area, I'm likely to be cooking, shopping for food, planning my next culinary experiment, or researching, voraciously, whatever interests me. In my kitchen, no matter what I am doing -- and I actually don't mind cleaning up -- I am deeply grateful for having the means to create, share with others and eat great food. Life is very good. ;o)