Monday, May 12, 2008

Appetizer - Polenta Tartlets

My sister and I decided to cook dinner for my mom on Mother's Day. She requested chicken picatta, and since it's a pretty simple dish, I decided to try a new appetizer. I can't cook for only 30 minutes on a Sunday!!

I love polenta, and so does my mom, and I have always wanted to try to make appetizers out of it. I have seen Food Network chefs such as Giada make tartlets with polenta, so I used that idea as inspiration.

My tartlets were 2-bite appetizers with different toppings - roasted tomatoes, garlic, and Parmesan for one, and caramelized onions and brie for another.

I started with a basic herbed polenta. I have made a variety of this before (see this link), and today I did the following:

  • 3 cups chicken broth (vegetable broth for a vegetarian version)
  • 3/4 cup stone ground cornmeal
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 sprig thyme, small leaves removed for use (discard stem)
  • 1 tbsp freshly chopped parsley
  • Optional: shredded cheese, like Parmesan or Asiago


  • Combine broth, garlic, thyme, and parsley in a pot; bring to a boil.
  • Slowly whisk in cornmeal, and continue to whisk until it thickens and starts to separate from the edges of the pot.
  • Add cheese, if desired.

At this point you could eat the polenta, chill it to harden, or bake it with other ingredients. In order to make the tartlets, you need to chill the polenta for at least 3 hours and up to 24 hours.

To chill the polenta: transfer the polenta to a large baking dish or a cookie sheet with high edges. It should be about 1/2-3/4 inch deep, or more for larger tartlets. Chill, covered, for at least 3 hours and up to 24 hours.

Tartlet Toppings

I prepared these toppings while the polenta was cooling in the fridge.

Roasted tomato, garlic, and Parmesan: Mix chopped tomatoes, chopped garlic, a pinch of salt, and a drizzle of olive oil for about 20 minutes on 375. The amounts depend on how many tartlets you want to make. I used 5 campari tomatoes and 3 cloves of garlic for 8 small tarts and had a bit leftover.

Caramelized onion and brie: Heat some olive oil and butter in a pan. Add sliced onions (I used 1 onion) and stir over medium heat for about 20-25 minutes, until golden brown. Halfway through cooking, add a pinch each of salt and sugar

Assembling the tartlets...

  • Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper
  • Once the polenta has hardened, cut it into small circles and transfer to the cookie sheet. I used a small glass to cut them, but a cookie cutter would have worked better.
  • Once all of the circles have been cut, drizzle them slightly and quickly with olive oil.
  • Top each with the toppings - for the tomato tartlet I started with a slice of fresh Parmesan cheese, then added the tomato/garlic mixture. I also added a pinch of shredded Parmesan on top. The onion tartlets started with a small piece of brie topped with the onion mixture.
  • Here is how they looked before going into the oven:

  • Bake the tartlets for about 8-10 minutes on 350.
  • Once they were done I topped the tomato tartlets with a basil leaf, and the onion tartlets with a parsley leaf.
  • And here is the final product:

Because I only had three hours to chill the polenta, they were still a bit soft. Even though they were soft, they were still so yummy and flavorful. I could have eaten just these for dinner! My dad even liked them, and he doesn't like polenta.

Next time I make these, and there will be a next time, I'll definitely make the polenta the day before so it has enough time to set.

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  1. That looks so good! I love the size of them!

  2. These are so cute! I was searching for a different appetizer for a party tomorrow. I am going to whip up the polenta now so it can chill all night. Thanks for such a great idea!