The result of shooting a show entirely dedicated to cheese comes with many obvious perks, one of which is taking home chunks and slices of the set after filming.
At every caseificio (dairy farm) the crew and I visited – be it to portray the production method, meet the producers, or milk the livestock – there was always a tasting here, a random gift of the local specailty there, and often a purchase of the product featured in each location. Hence the fridge explosion. I am loaded with cheese. There's formaggio everywhere, and more apparently coming in the mail...
What to do with all this bounty (aside from eating it and thus increasing my cholesterol)? After giving away loads of it to friends, gifting it to neighbors and showing off la bella figura at parties and festive gatherings, I need to start using the funky stuff and make room in the icebox. Employing the cheese in dishes is always a good way to start.
My favorite are the fridge-cleaner recipes, the ones that wipe out most of the leftovers in one fell swoop.
A few days ago, with the bitter chill of winter finally scratching at our windows, and fierce winds blowing, I made polenta. I see a pattern forming: my mother makes polenta at the first sign of cold, I see myself now doing the same. Of course, like her, I make it monumental amounts, despite our immediate family of two.
With the leftover polenta and the abundance of cheese I made crostini and popped a nice bottle of Franciacorta. Cleaning out the fridge deserves some celebration, no?
Leftover polenta, about 400 g (14 oz)
100 g (1/2 cup) gorgonzola, sliced
100 g (1/2 cup) fontina, diced
50 g (1/4 cup) Parmigiano, grated
3 tbsp mascarpone
1 glass heavy cream or milk
1 small bunch of chives, minced
2-3 firm Kaiser pears, cored, peeled and quartered – slice to obtain a piece for each piece of polenta
Start by slicing the polenta (it solidifies fast, so I store the leftovers in a cubic container, in order to make it easier to cut it in regularly shaped slices). I like my slices thick, about 3/4-inch. You can of course change this measurement, but anything thinner than that could potentially come apart when heated and topped. Don't say I didn't warn you.
Heat a griddle or a ribbed steak pan until scorching hot. Brush or spray with olive oil. Grill the polenta slices until seared with dark grill marks on each side, and set aside. Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F.
In a saucepan, melt the cheeses with the cream (or milk) over low heat. Stir gently to obtain a firm, lumpy mixture. The texture should not be runny or liquid.
Let the mixture cool a few minutes, then incorporate the minced chives stirring to blend well.
Place the grilled polenta on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Spoon a dollop of the mixture on each slice of polenta and top with a piece of pear.
Pop in the hot oven for 10 minutes or until the cheese begins to bubble. Serve immediately.