Tapas! I love these little bites!
On a trip to Oaxaca, Mexico, a group of friends and I went to an incredible and authentic tapas eatery where I first enjoyed Spanish tapas. It was an amazing experience, both culinary and culturally! I was thrilled to be able to experience these wonderful little plates in 1994 when few Americans had heard of these little dishes yet. Tapas were not yet a mainstream food item!
Although tapas are beloved by many today, a lot of people don’t know that Venice, Italy also has a culinary tradition of tapas known as ‘Cicchetti’ — aka: Italian tapas!
Cicchetti are simple, small ‘little bites’, and are often quite salty since Venetian cuisine was founded on salt because of it’s location on the Adriatic Sea (think: salt-cured sardines, anchovies, cod, and more). So for Italian tapas, or ‘chicchetti’, you need a strong salt element to excite the taste buds . . . freshly ground sea salt is my favorite to use in the kitchen. The custom of Italian cicchetti is similar to Spanish tapas – appetizers eaten to offset drinking alcohol in the afternoon or early before the evening meal. There is a strong Mediterranean influence in all tapas: olives, anchovies, sardines, and garlic served on little breads, such as Italian crostini. It’s easy to understand why Venetian ‘cicchetti’ are often compared with the much-loved tapas from Spain.
For this week’s Sunday Supper theme “Tapas” I prepared some flavor-packed Polenta Crostini Bites with Caramelized Mushrooms. I bet you can’t eat just one! These are absolutely delightful! Enjoy!
What You Need:
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1 tsp. finely ground sea salt
- 1 cup polenta
- 1 - 2 cups freshly grated Italian Fontina cheese, plus more to pass around to guests
- 1 - 2 cups freshly grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish and to pass around to guests
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 pound porcini mushrooms, diced
- Finely ground sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 1 Tbsp. freshly minced garlic
- 1 tsp. finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
- 2 Tbsp. freshly-squeezed lemon juice
- 3/4 cup dry white wine
- 2 Tbsp. finely chopped Italian parsley leaves
- 1 long, thin loaf of Italian or French bread, sliced thin, toasted, drizzled with olive oil and rubbed with fresh garlic
- In a medium, heavy pot over high heat bring the cream, stock, and sea salt to a boil.
- Add the polenta gradually, whisking constantly.
- When the mixture thickens, switch to a wooden spoon and adjust the heat to maintain a bare simmer.
- Cook, stirring often, until thick, smooth, and creamy, about 15 minutes.
- Stir in the Fontina and Parmesan cheeses.
- Keep the polenta warm over low heat, stirring occasionally.
- If the polenta gets dry as it sits, stir in about 1/4 cup of cream at a time, until it reaches your preference of wetness/dryness.
- In a medium skillet over high heat, heat the olive oil.
- When the oil is hot, place the mushrooms in a single layer, and do not stir!
- Cook the mushrooms to a sizzling point until they have caramelized on the bottom, about 2 - 3 minutes.
- When the bottoms are caramelized, toss them once and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Continue to cook without stirring for about 5 minutes.
- Season mushrooms with salt and pepper.
- Add the butter and cook until it begins to brown.
- Then add the garlic.
- Continue to cook until the garlic begins to brown, do not burn the garlic.
- Add the thyme and cook for about 10 seconds more.
- Add the lemon juice and cook until it evaporates.
- Add the wine, and simmer until the mushrooms are glazed with the sauce.
- Add the parsley.
- Then stir and remove the pan from the heat.
- Place about 1 tablespoon of warm polenta on each little slice of toasted bread (crostini).
- Place about 1/2 teaspoon of the mushroom on top of the polenta.
- Garnish with grated Parmesan and minced Italian parsley.
- Serve immediately.
Here are the other delicious tapas for this week’s Sunday Supper Tapas theme:
Stuffed Green Queen Olives with Garlic Infused Olive Oil from MarocMama
Cheesy, Tortellini Tapas & Spicy Bacon Ranch Dip from Daily Dish Recipes
Black-Eyed Pea Cowboy Caviar from Shockingly Delicious
Goan Beef Croquettes from Masala Herb
Giardiniera Salad from Peanut Butter and Peppers
Bacon Wrapped Calamari from Jane’s Adventures in Dinner
Patatas Bravas from Supper for a Steal
Caramelized Onion & Gruyere Bites from The Foodie Army Wife
Agave Truffles from Killer Bunnies, Inc
Pear, Brie, and Honey Crostini from Hezzi-D’s Books and Cooks
Tomato Bread from girlichef
Clams in Green Sauce (Almejas en Salsa Verde) from The Little Ferraro Kitchen
Roasted Tomato-Basil Flatbread from Take A Bite Out of Boca
Herb and Citrus Marinated Olives from Magnolia Days
Smoky Paprika Peppers from Small Wallet, Big Appetite
Balsamic Raspberries with Mascarpone Cream from That Skinny Chick Can Bake
Gambas al Ajillo from Manu’s Menu
Squid in Garlic Chili Olive Oil from Food Lust People Love
Tortilla Española from The Not So Cheesy Kitchen
Croquetas de Pollo from Cookin’ Mimi
Low-Carb Salmon Croquettes from Yours And Mine Are Ours
Bruschetta Topping from What Smells So Good?
Herb Roasted Almonds from Curious Cuisiniere
Artichoke Heart and Manchego Spread on Fried Garlic Bread from The Wimpy Vegetarian
Tortillita de Camarones from Cindy’s Recipes and Writings
Patatas A La Riojana (Rioja-Style Potato & Chorizo Stew) from Cupcakes & Kale Chips
Gambas al Ajillo y Clementina (Shrimp with Garlic and Clementines) from FoodieTots
Tortillas De Papa y Atun (Tuna and Potatoes Tortilla) from Basic N Delicious
Pocky Cake Pops from NinjaBaking.com
Chorizo Filled Dates Wrapped in Bacon from I Run For Wine
Manchego-Stuffed Spanish Meatballs from The Weekend Gourmet
Roast Onions with Blue Cheese and Pine Nuts from Healthy. Delicious.
Shrimp and Chorizo Tapas from The Texan New Yorker
Blueberry and Lemon Yogurt Quesada from In The Kitchen With KP
Chorizo with Spicy Sweet Potato Tapas from Soni’s Food
Chorizo and Manchego Toast Tapas from Family Foodie
Roasted Bone Marrow with Citrus Salad from The Girl In The Little Red Kitchen
Mushroom Chevre Crostini from A Kitchen Hoor’s Adventures
Serrano Ham and Manchego Croquetas with Smoked Pimenton Aioli from My Other City By The Bay
Krab Filled Avocado Tapas from from Hot Momma’s Kitchen Chaos
Polenta Crostini Bites with Caramelized Mushrooms: Cicchetti – A Venetian Tapas Tradition from La Bella Vita Cucina
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