goat cheese polenta with caramelized onions, bacon and honey

Goat Cheese Polenta with Caramelized Onions, Bacon, and HoneyI was very excited to make this recipe when I found it on Food 52.  It was named the runner-up polenta recipe in last year ‘s Your Best Polenta Recipe Contest! on the Food 52 website.  The recipe remains very popular today with over 17,000 views. In the comments section, there are many posts from readers who had actually made the dish and raved about it.  With all that build-up and anticipation, I was very disappointed to be underwhelmed by this dish.  The sum of all the delicious individual parts should have been much greater than what it actually was. Maybe I did something wrong?  I’m not sure.  How could so many people give this high praise when I thought the dish as a whole was just so-so.  The polenta, on its own, was good, especially with my addition of tangy goat cheese, lemon thyme, and much more salt.  I usually prefer soft polenta, but this firm version, which was browned slightly, was a surprisingly nice change. The bacon, aside from being yummy by itself, added a nice bit of much-needed crunch.  However, when combined with the caramelized onions and honey, the polenta and bacon competed strangely with the sweetness of the onions and honey.  The onions were very sweet, as caramelized onions should be, but the addition of the honey made it overly sweet.  Contrary to many comments on the Food 52 site, I found that the honey made the polenta unappealing.  I really want to make a good firm polenta dish so I’ll probably give this recipe one more shot, making it more savory.  Next time, I’ll try using chicken or vegetable stock instead of milk and omitting the honey.  Any other suggestions?

Goat Cheese Polenta with Caramelized Onions, Bacon, and Honey
Goat Cheese Polenta with Caramelized Onions, Bacon, and Honey
Yields 8 servings

For the Polenta
2 cups water
2 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon kosher salt (1 used at least 1 tablespoon)
1 cup polenta
4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons lemon thyme, chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Bring the water, milk, and salt to a boil. Slowly whisk in the polenta. Add the goat cheese and lemon thyme.  Turn heat to low, and continue whisking for 5 minutes, or until polenta is smooth and creamy. Spread the polenta in a 9×9 baking dish, and set aside to cool. Pour 1 tablespoon olive oil into another skillet. Cut the polenta into desired shape, and cook over medium heat until slightly browned and crusty on one side, about 2 minutes.  Flip and cook the other sides another two minutes.

For the Topping
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 yellow onion, halved and sliced in 1/4″ slices
3 slices cooked bacon, medium-diced
2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
honey, to drizzle

While the polenta is setting up, add the butter and olive oil to a skillet. Add the sliced onions and a sprinkle of kosher salt, and cook, over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until soft and caramelized, about 20-25 minutes.

To assemble, place polenta cake on a plate, top each cake with caramelized onions, bacon, and crumbled goat cheese, and drizzle with honey.

Adapted from ArielleClementine’s recipe on Food 52

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7 thoughts on “goat cheese polenta with caramelized onions, bacon and honey

  1. Reading your reactions to this recipe made me think of chestnut honey, perhaps my favorite of all honeys. As you know it´s got a strong, unusual bitter edge that balances the super-sweetness. For those who´ve never tried it, its balance is a little like chocolate in that the bitter and the sweet add up to more than the sum of its parts (though it tastes nothing like chocolate, it´s just more interesting than most honeys). It´s a flavor that fits perfectly in Italian food, really (though I see it is sold here in Spain and have also found French when I was in NY).

    I´m eager to try this recipe and I´ll take Christine´s suggestion about using some white wine (or dry cider, in Spain it´s called Sidra), and chestnut honey.

    GREAT blog by the way! Love those strawberry Santa.-hats 🙂

  2. It doesn’t surprise me that this doesn’t quite work for you … I’m not wild about the flavour profile either. I have a couple of thoughts/suggestions: first (with respect to your quest for the perfect polenta) I recommend not using instant polenta — it makes a real difference, even though after 40 minutes of stirring your arm does feel like it will fall off. I also think that parmigiano adds an irreplaceable depth to polenta. Second, I might modify this dish as follows: 1) with the goat cheese, sweet onions, and bacon, I feel like you need something assertive and fresh to cut through — like arugula, or watercress. Third, I’d consider omitting the honey altogether and instead using a balsamic reduction (sparingly). Of course, with these changes it becomes a different dish but (IMO) probably a better one.

  3. I have never mastered the art of making a ‘great’ polenta. I wish i could suggest something but I’ll await your next post on it 🙂 Happy cooking!! It’s a fun experience testing and trying and realising that maybe you can put your own unique spin on such a ‘viewed’ dish!

  4. Hmm… I heard that when something is too sweet, you need an acidity to balance the flavour profile — I wonder if maybe thinning the honey with some apple cider vinegar, white wine, or lemon juice might do the trick?

    Otherwise, it DOES look pretty good. I’ve just started eating crunchy polenta with my school lunches, and I’m surprised by how much I like it. 🙂

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