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Grilled polenta 'crostini' with lardo

Grilled polenta crostini with lardo

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Polenta is the staple crop of the region of Veneto. Well beyond the turn of the last century, many Venetian farming families didn't have anything else to eat; they ate polenta every day, at every meal. Thankfully things have changed, though polenta remains the iconic accompaniment to a number of traditional dishes, acting either as the medium to collect juices of stews and braises, or as the starchy sidekick to grilled meat and fish.

In this recipe, polenta replaces bread as the vehicle for cured meats, in this case lardo. Dressed like a crostino, grilled polenta - charred, warm, topped with glistening slices of lardo melting away – makes for a wonderful cold-weather starter, easy enough to enjoy at a family meal, but also novel enough to impress a table of guests.

Ingredients

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  • Grilled polenta crostini with lardo

  • 100g of lardo, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp rosemary, very finely chopped
  • 1.2l water
  • 10g of fine salt
  • 300g of polenta, (preferably not instant)
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Method

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1
To make the polenta, bring the water to a rolling boil in a medium pan. Add the salt and allow it to dissolve, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Use a whisk to create a vortex in the water and gradually add the polenta, whisking all the while to prevent lumps from forming
2
Once all the polenta is added, swap the whisk for a wooden spoon and start stirring. Cook the polenta for 40–45 minutes, stirring all the while, until it has lost its grainy texture. You want the polenta to be thick ad just starting to detach from the sides of the pan
3
Once ready, tumble the polenta onto a large round or square wooden board and leave to cool and set completely
4
To cut the polenta, use a sharp knife with the blade slightly wet, or better still, a piece of cotton thread (used like a cheese wire). Slice it in one direction, the slices should be about 4cm wide. Then cut these into small squares of roughly the same size
5
Place a griddle pan over a medium high heat. When very hot, add the polenta squares and grill them for about 5 minutes each side, or until you see dark marks forming on the surface
6
Remove them from the heat and transfer to a serving platter. Top each with half a slice of lardo, allow it to melt ever so slightly (after a couple of minutes you'll see it go slightly transparent), and serve with a sprinkle of the finely chopped rosemary
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