Polenta with Truffled Brie & Caramelised Sage Butter
Everytime W goes to Switzerland, I know I can look forward to a few things (besides his homecoming, of course). If it's Zurich, I know there will be boxes of divine handmade pralines, luscious Grand Cru truffles crafted from the finest cocoa beans and fresh cream, and Luxemburgerli (an airy macaron-type confection), all of which he knows I adore, from the famed Confiserie Sprungli. If it's Geneva, I know he'll pop into the chic food hall of the city's grandest department store, Globus-Grand Passage in Place du Molard, for some truffled brie, which he knows I can't get enough of.
This last trip was to Geneva - suffice to say I have been happily living on warm crusty baguette thickly smeared with the aforementioned surface ripened white mould cheese the last few days. Lovingly ripened by skilled affinage and released only at the peak of its oozing perfection, this cheese's golden yellow pate is a creamy delight, intensely permeated with the swoon-inducing aroma of black truffle, with which it is generously speckled.
I love smothering griddled polenta under a blanket of molten cheese (torta mascarpone gorgonzola or taleggio have always worked a treat) and thought I would make a luxurious supper for one tonight using the truffled brie. For the polenta, I am a total convert to Judy Rodgers' method as detailed in The Zuni Cafe Cookbook, a treasure trove of wonderful stories, recipes and refined technique. The fluffy texture is thanks to a high ratio of water to corn meal and long leisurely cooking, finished by a resting period in a bain marie wherein the polenta swells even more to acquire its uniquely tender texture. Once the polenta was made and still soft, I stirred in some dried porcini pieces which I had first reconsituted and sauteed with a touch of garlic in butter. The warm mixture is then spread onto a tray to cool. When set till firm, it's sliced and brushed with melted butter before being roasted in the oven, emerging delicately crunchy outside yet yielding within. For the sauce, I melt a good lump of unsalted butter and a dollop of mascarpone in a small pan over a gentle flame till liquid before adding some brie, stirring all the while. When the mixture is piping hot, tip it over the waiting polenta slices. As for the finishing touch, it is as simple as heating some unsalted butter to the point where the milk solids caramelise and the fat becomes nuttily aromatic, then tossing in a handful of young, tender sage leaves to frizzle and crisp.