Thursday, May 05, 2011
Polenta with Cavalo Nero & Borlotti Beans
It was one of those delicious days, a holiday weekday, happily not at work, but ensconced on a couch and watching daytime cooking programs, a rare treat. Even better, one of my favourites was showing, Lidia's Italy.
Sometimes I wonder if more than a few television chefs just want to entertain rather than making you want to cook any of their offerings. There are no such misgivings with Lidia, just about everything she demonstrates makes me want to head straight to the kitchen and hit the pans.
I can even admit to the odd jealous pang when she tastes her dishes. Oh, sometimes, how I wish it was me standing beside her. On this occasion, Lidia concocted in her easy unhurried style, a beautiful looking dish of cavalo nero, beans and bacon served over creamy soft polenta.
Well, I wasn't there and I wanted to have some of it!
Happily, there is a local Italian greengrocer who carries not just cavalo nero, sometimes called black cabbage or kale, but also fresh borlotti beans. Whilst Lidia used dried cannellini beans, the silken texture of just podded and gently simmered borlotti beans is hard to go past, also, they are quicker to cook and require no lengthy soaking.
About the only other other to worry about was which wine to serve with the dish? Lidia always has a glass of wine to hand and I was determined not to let her down in this respect, so a visit to Prince Wine Store was in order, as a mainly cabbage dish is a little tricky to match wine to.
Michael McNamara has a great palate and he patiently listened as I explained what the dish was. We both felt a red wouldn't cut the mustard and after a few moments thought, he suggested a Bastianich wine, incredible, as there was no mention of the provenance of the dish.
For those who don't know, Joseph Bastianich, the man behind the wine under consideration, is Lidia's son! That was definitely the sealer for me and a bottle of friulano, a grape variety related to sauvignon blanc, but nowhere near as extravagant in flavour, made the trip home. It was minerally and rich, the perfect foil to the cavalo nero.
(My preference is for the traditional long cooked, but quick polenta is more widely available.)
scant tablespoon salt
2 bay leaves
200g grated fontina cheese
Bring the water to a boil in a large pot, add the salt and bay leaves, then slowly whisk in the polenta. When boiling, lower to a simmer and stir regularly until cooked, which is when the polenta starts to leave the side of the pot, but taste to be sure. When ready, about 30-40 minutes for traditional, fish out all the bay leaves then stir in the grated fontina and butter.
Cavalo Nero & Borlotti Beans
1.2kg borlotti beans* in the pod
1 tablespoon olive oil
200g kaiserfleisch or bacon, cut into lardons
1 bunch cavalo nero, centre stalk stripped out, roughly chopped and washed
salt & fresh ground pepper
50g grated fontina cheese
extra virgin olive oil
Pod the beans and place them in a pot, just covered with water. Simmer for 30-40 minutes until just tender. Set aside, do not drain.
In a pan with a lid or a pot, place the olive oil and kaiserfleisch and gently fry until the fat renders and there is a little browning. Add the cavalo nero, still wet from being washed and season with salt and fresh ground pepper. Put the lid on the pan and gently cook for 5 minutes. Add the beans and about 1 cup of their cooking water and simmer for another 5 minutes or until the cabbage is just tender. Check the seasoning.
Place a scoop or two of polenta into bowls and top with the cavalo nero, borlotti beans and the cooking juices. Sprinkle over the fontina and drizzle on your finest extra virgin olive oil.
*You can, of course, use dried cannellini beans, just like Lidia did. Cook to the directions on the packet.