Bed & Breakfast Recipes: the Polenta Challenge

I was Tweeting recently when I discovered a link to a post about polenta.  It sounded like a tasty entree, but frankly, with a Bed & Breakfast, we are always searching for breakfast dishes. So I casually speculated about whether I could adapt polenta for breakfast?

Be careful what you ponder online, because I was promptly contacted by Ashley requesting the results of my kind-of offhand comment – with pictures! Good grief, now I’d really have to do this thing!

I set to work and came up with two polenta options for Breakfast at the Scarborough Inn.  One is more of a brunch recipe with Italian influences; the second is a more traditional breakfast dish that includes fresh, tree-ripened New Jersey peaches – in season right now. Both use Bellino instant Polenta from Italy. Yes, instant. (Purists can make the l-o-n-g version, of course).

Both recipes start with polenta, made according to the instructions on the package; but are plated and garnished very differently. Both are very easy to make and are adaptable,** too – very important when making breakfast for up to 60 guests!

Cheesy Polenta with Pesto & Italian Sausage

Brunch Polenta Italiano

Bellino Instant Polenta
Finely grated Parmesan cheese, to taste
Pesto with Basil, room temperature
Italian sausage, (I used sweet) cut in slices & grilled, about one link per person
Salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste.

Slice the sweet Italian sausage on the diagonal and grill until cooked thoroughly and lightly browned on both sides.  Set aside and keep warm. Make the polenta according to the directions on the package.  Toward the end of the cooking process, add a generous sprinkling (about 1/4 cup) of grated Parmesan cheese to the warm polenta and mix well as it finishes cooking. I also added freshly ground black pepper, but no salt as the cheese is rather salty.

To serve: (for each serving) Make a little mound of the golden polenta on a plate and top with a dollop of bright green Pesto Sauce, arrange the grilled sausages on the side and sprinkle the dish with some additional ground pepper and Parmesan.  Garnish with bright red tomatoes and a sprig of fresh Basil.

This dish is very colorful and uses seasonal herbs and vegetables to advantage.  The more assertive flavors of the pesto and cheese nicely balance the subtle polenta and sweet sausage to create a lively palate-pleaser.

Yellow & White Peach Sauce over Polenta

“Jersey Fresh” Peach Polenta

Bellino Instant Polenta, prepared the day before

Fresh NJ Peaches, about one per person, peeled & cut into thick wedges
2Tbl. butter, separated – more if needed
1Tbl. Vermont Maple Syrup – more if needed
Freshly-ground Nutmeg
1 lemon wedge

Prepare the polenta the day before, pour into a pie plate and refrigerate overnight. Bring it to room temperature in the morning (perhaps while you grill some thick-sliced bacon to accompany this breakfast?)

Preheat two frying pans and melt 1 Tbl butter in each. In one, (set at low temperature) add the peach wedges, a drizzle of pure maple syrup, and some freshly-ground nutmeg. Stir gently and allow to cook at low temperature until the peaches are warm, but still al dente.  Stir gently once or twice during cooking.

Meanwhile, cut the room-temperature polenta into eight pie-shaped wedges and place in a heated (medium) pan with the melted butter. Grill lightly until browned on one side, flip and finish browning on the other side.  Both frying pans may be covered so that everything is warmed through, but don’t allow the food to overcook or burn. Add a squeeze of lemon juice to the peaches at the end of warming & remove the lid (if using) to allow the pan juices to thicken slightly.

To serve: Place the golden browned polenta on a plate and cover with a generous serving of the warmed peaches and pan juices.  Grind some nutmeg on top and garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.  Add a rasher of grilled bacon, if using.

This seems like a more traditional American breakfast; but the polenta adds a definite twist with a bit of grainy texture and heartiness. Fresh peaches contribute rich, seasonal flavor and the nutmeg adds just a hint of spiciness.

INNsider Tip:  As to adaptability** – the Brunch version could be varied by using other seasonally-inspired sides like watermelon & peach salsa with cilantro, spicy tomato salsa, or by smothering it in grilled mushrooms, or even Jerk-style shrimp.  Breakfast-style polenta would be good with other seasonal fruit toppings; try apple-cinnamon, grilled pineapple, or mixed berries.  Either of these entrees would pair nicely with a variety of breakfast meats – whatever suits your fancy.

Hope you like the results, Ashley!

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