Once a month one of our local restaurants, Larkins on the Lake, hosts a wine tasting dinner. We always attend. The prices are reasonable ( $25.00 a person ), the sommelier is knowledgable, and the food is excellent. If there is a wine that we are particularily fond of they are generous with the pours and we have never left feeling deprived of a good meal. One of the food selections this month was Braised Beef in Polenta Cups with Plum Chipotle Sauce. The chef has offered to share recipes with me, but I have been so busy that I have not asked him. But I could not get this dish out of my mind. I can just imagine it as an interesting appetizer at any get together. It would also be adaptable to so many fillings. If you were pressed for time you could get some barbecue from your local smokehouse or you could make it vegetarian with a black bean salsa. The combinations are endless. So I decided to experiment.
First I made polenta by following the directions on the package. Once it was thick, I poured it on to a wax paper lined sheet pan with high sides. I refrigerated it overnight. Once it was cold, it was easy to cut out into 2 inch rounds. Then using a 1/2 teaspoon measure or other spoon, you scoop out some of the center. These will hold in the refrigerator until you are ready to warm and fill them.
Once heated you can fill them with anything that appeals to you. Since I had a busy day yesterday shopping with my blogging buddy Penny of The Comforts of Home ( go to her website to see where we went), I put a chuck roast in the crockpot with a little Barbecue sauce and beef broth and left it all day. It was fork tender by the time I heated the polenta cups.
I shredded the beef and placed spoonfuls into the polenta cups and then topped them with a sauce that I made from plum jam, a little barbecue sauce and a bit of chipotle powder.
They were every bit as good as the polenta cups we had at the restaurant. The recommended wine with this appetizer was a Southern Belle Shiraz, Australia, 2008.
BRAISED BEEF IN POLENTA CUPS WITH PLUM CHIPOTLE SAUCE
For the Polenta: (Adapted from the Food Channel)
8 cups chicken stock
2 cups polenta
3 tablespoons butter
Note: I halved the recipe for just the two of us and used a smaller sheet pan. I got about 24 2-inch polenta rounds.
Bring chicken stock to a simmer and whisk in polenta. Cook according to package directions until polenta is thick. Add butter. Line a rimmed baking sheet with wax paper. Pour polenta onto tray and spread evely to 1-inch thickness. Cool to room temperature and place in refrigerator, covered until ready to use. (At least two hours).
When polenta is chilled and firm, remove it from the refrigerator and cut it into 2-inch rounds with a biscuit or cookie cutter. Scoop out the centers with a 1/2 inch measuring spoon or any small spoon, being careful not to make a hole in the bottom. These can be prepared a day or two in advance. When you are ready to fill them you can warm them in a 250 degree oven until they are hot.
For the Beef:
3 to 4 pound Chuck roast
1/2 cup barbecue sauce
1 cup beef broth
Brown the beef on both sides in a little olive oil. Place in crockpot and add the barbecue sauce and the beef broth. Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours. Remove from crockpot and shred with two forks.
For the Plum Sauce:
1/2 to 3/4 cups plum jam or preserves
1 to 2 tablespoons barbecue sauce
1/8 tsp. chipotle powder of chili powder
Heat the three ingredients together in a small saucepan until the jam is like a glaze.
Top the warmed polenta cups with the shredded beef. Spoon the jam sauce on top and sprinkle with parsley.
I hope this has inspired you to get creative with this recipe. I would love to hear some of your ideas.