Chef Cathy Whims
Creamy polenta makes a comforting bed for a vegetable ragout, roast chicken or meaty stew. Chef Whims differentiates this version by incorporating toasted hazelnuts—an ingredient local to her Oregon restaurant, Nostrana. She serves the polenta with her signature smoky rotisserie chicken.
2 cups raw hazelnuts
9 cups water
1 tsp. sea salt
3 cups white polenta
8 tbsp. (1/4 lb.) unsalted butter
1. Preheat oven to 325 F. Place hazelnuts on baking sheet; toast in oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.
2. Remove skins from hazelnuts by placing them in a metal strainer and then stirring them vigorously with a metal spoon. Once the nuts are completely cool, pulse them into a medium-fine meal in a food processor, taking care not to turn them into hazelnut butter.
3. In large saucepan over high heat, bring water to a rapid boil; add salt. Slowly stir in dry polenta, whisking constantly. Continue stirring until the polenta thickens up.
4. Reduce heat to low; simmer mixture for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally; the polenta should become rather thick. Beat in ground hazelnuts until fully incorporated.
5. Continue to simmer over very low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cut butter into chunks and beat into polenta until fully incorporated. Taste for seasoning and add salt as needed.
Photograph courtesy of Oregon Hazelnut Marketing Board