You may not know this by looking at the recipes on this site, but I love polenta. I really, really love polenta. Especially when it's firmed up, grilled, served with mushrooms and some good cheese. In a ski hut in the alps. Sigh. That to me is simplicity at its finest, proof that you don't need any fancy ingredients to eat something incredibly satisfying. It's also proof that there actually is a northern Italian in me somewhere.
I also love tarts. That might come less as a surprise. Sweet or savory, I just love the fact that the crust works as a 'basket', as a vessel which you're allowed to fill with anything you fancy or happen to have on hand.
So, not surprisingly, when I stumbled upon Luisa's artichoke tart with polenta crust I spent 30 seconds wondering why I had never made a tart using polenta as the crust before wandering into the kitchen to rectify that misdoing immediately.
Of course, I swapped the artichokes with mushrooms, added some good cheese and a little bit of Speck. And then, instead of opting for a cream-laden tart filling, I chose milk to give it a somewhat lighter feel.
The tart came together in moments (no chilling or blind baking of the crust, after all!) and I was actually able to enjoy lunch at lunch time for once. Even better, the first bite propelled me back home. Well the flavors did, anyway - I'm not quite sure tarts can be found in Alpine ski huts... yet.
crust slightly adapted from Luisa, filling inspired by what I was craving
For the crust:
150g // Scant 3/4 cup polenta
350ml // 1 1/2 cups water or vegetable broth, or a combination of both
35g // generous 1/4 cup of finely grated parmesan cheese
1 large egg
Salt and pepper
Salt and pepper
Bring water/broth to a boil over medium-high heat. Slowly add polenta in a thin stream, whisking constantly. Continue to stir until the polenta comes away from the bottom. Remove the saucepan from the heat and let it sit, covered, for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally (in the meantime you can prep the filling). Then stir in cheese and egg and season with salt and pepper.
Grease a 9-inch tart with olive oil, spoon the polenta into the pan and press it out, pushing it up the sides. You might find it easier to do with slightly wet hands. Set aside for a few minutes to harden, then form an even rim about 1 cm thick with moist fingers, pressing firmly against the sides. Don't worry if it doesn't look perfect!
For the filling:
1 tablespoon of sunflower oil
1 small onion, chopped
35g // 1.2oz speck, slivered (alternatively you can use prosciutto/pancetta/bacon, or leave it out entirely and make it vegetarian!)
250g // 8oz chestnut mushrooms, sliced
225g // scant cup of milk
1 large egg
1 medium egg yolk
60g // 2oz Stilfser cheese, coarsely grated (alternatively you can use any semi-hard cheese with an aromatic, powerful flavor)
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 160°C//325°F.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and fry onion for 2-3 minutes. Then add the speck and fry for a further 2 minutes before adding the mushrooms. Fry until soft.
Combine milk, whole egg and egg yolk in a bowl. Pass through a sieve (this gets rid of the chalaza of the egg, which can cause bitterness) into a large bowl. Add cheese and the mushroom mixture to the bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Using a slotted spoon spread the mushroom/cheese mixture onto the base of the tart, then pour the liquid over it. You might have some liquid left over, depending on the deepness of your tart pan (I did).
Bake in the oven until the filling is set, about 25 to 30 minutes.