Portobello, Bacon & Kale with Grilled Polenta


Since last season we grew corn for cornmeal, I’ve been experimenting.  This week I decided to make my own polenta, which I used to buy in rolls from the grocery store.  As is true of most things made directly by oneself, the difference is amazing.

Polenta is as good as the corn it comes from, so start with good cornmeal–or grits or polenta, which are all just different grinds of the same corn.  Polenta is a typically a courser grind than cornmeal, so go with a courser meal if you have an option.

Polenta takes a bit of attention, but it’s easy attention and worth it.  Once you have polenta made you can do all kinds of things with it.  The Italians use it in place of pasta, and they’ve been my inspiration for this recipe. I also enjoy eating it with just a tad of butter, salt and pepper.

For firm polenta that you can grill, as I do for this recipe, use a 3:1 ratio of water to cornmeal. If you want a soft polenta, something more akin to mashed potatoes, use a 4:1 ratio.  Cooking a full hour allows all the flavor to emerge.  If that stresses you on a work day, the cool thing about polenta is that you can make it ahead, and warm it up or grill it when you are ready for it.

Cooking Time: 25 minutes (with pre-made polenta; 1 1/2 hours if making polenta at the same time).

Ingredients to serve 2 (with extra polenta):

Polenta (1 c. course cornmeal and 1/2 tsp. salt)ingred
1 large portobello mushroom
1 large leek
3 c. kale, torn into large pieces
4 slices bacon
2 c. seasoned tomato sauce (homemade sauce if you have it–something well seasoned if you don’t)
1/2 tsp. each oregano, basil, and thyme and a 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper flakes (opt) (adjust seasonings depending on how well seasoned your tomato sauce is)


For Polenta: (make earlier in the day or 1 1/2 hours before your plan to eat it)

Bring 3 cups of water to a rapid boil and gradually whisk in 1 cup of cornmeal, stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes until cornmeal begins to thicken.  Reduce heat as low as you can and continue cooking, stirring well every 10 minutes and adding a tablespoon of water as needed.  At the end of cooking stir in 1/2 tsp. salt. Either cool in your pan, or transfer to a larger round pan or skillet, allowing it to firm up for easy grilling.

While the polenta is cooling prep the following:

Slice 1 portobello mushroom (or substitute shiitake or oyster), slice 1 leek, and chop 3 c. of kale. If the kale is mature, cut out the stems as demonstrated here.  The kale pictured above is new spring kale from overwintered plants and the leaves are small and stems tender.

Fry bacon, cool on paper towels.  Once cool, break into pieces.

Drain off most of the fat, but leave a couple teaspoons in the pan.  Add a couple of teaspoons of olive oil and saute the leeks in the bacon fat/oil until soft and translucent (about 5 minutes).  Add mushrooms and cook about 5 minutes more.  Add 1/2 c. stock, white wine or water and kale, reduce heat, cover and steam about 5 minutes more. Stir in bacon.

Meanwhile, heat griddle (a panini griddle pan works great) and warm up tomato sauce, adding the herbs.polenta-dish

Slice polenta into wedges.  Lightly grease griddle and grill polenta for about 5 minutes.

To assemble:

Place two polenta wedges on the plate.  Cover with about 3/4 c. tomato sauce.  Top with bacon, kale, mushroom mix and serve.







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  • this sounds delicious! i recently started cooking with leeks and we love them. now we have some leek seedlings growing inside until it warms up. i am partial to anything with kale in it and my husband loves all things bacon so this could be a nice mix of the two. your polenta looks great.

    • Thanks, Carrie–we liked it so much I think I’ll make it again next week before we till up our over-wintered kale in time for spring planting. We are using over-wintered leeks now that the onions are gone. I like leeks too, they are more creamy than onions and less pungent. Another reader made this up and omitted the polenta and tomato sauce and served it as a side dish. Lots of versatility when it comes to leeks, kale and bacon–and mushrooms, which is part of what I love about this medley!

  • I tried this recipe last night, it was delicious and so easy. I have not cooked with kale before and this was a great way to start. I cheated and used store bought polenta (next time I will make my own). I have enough of the ingredients left to make this again some time this week…Thank You!

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