Mmmm, polenta. A big bowl of creamy polenta is my kind of comfort food, and this caramelized onion polenta with blue cheese sauce is perfect now that the nights here in Denver are becoming noticeably cooler. Don’t get me wrong. I could eat polenta any day of the year. But there’s something about this caramelized onion polenta that’s extra satisfying as the weather cools.
Now, I know blue cheese isn’t beloved by everyone. People either love it or hate it. There doesn’t seem to be much in between the two camps. In college, we used to hit Denny’s for those late-night cravings, and I’d always order a salad with blue cheese dressing. Every time, one of my friends would point to a big blue cheese chunk and tell me to eat it. I’d gladly eat it, and he’d freak out, practically squealing, “You have a piece of mold in your mouth right now!” I still loved my blue cheese, and he was always disgusted by it. To me, it’s the perfect of example of the two blue cheese camps.
If you’re like my blue cheesing-hating friend, I’m sure goat cheese would make for a delicious substitution. Obviously, the flavor would be more subtle, but I’m sure it’d still be tasty and plenty creamy. OK, now that we’ve firmly determined the two blue cheese camps, let’s dig into the details.
How to Make Caramelized Onion Polenta
We start off with a little multitasking. Both caramelized onions and polenta take time to cook, so it only makes sense to prepare them together. For the caramelized onions, we cook them over medium-low heat in plenty of butter with a pinch of sugar and salt. You mostly don’t have to mess with the onions. Sure, you’ll occasionally stir here and there, but leaving them alone helps them caramelize.
While the onions start to turn into little caramelized treats, go ahead and boil chicken stock over medium-high heat. When the water starts boiling, reduce the stove temperature to low as you frantically stir in the polenta until it thickens, which should only take a minute or two.
And now for the fun part: Pour yourself a drink — if you haven’t already — because the hard part is done. Cover the polenta and give it a vigorous stir every 10 minutes for the next 30 to 40 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in a splash of heavy cream, butter, caramelized onions, salt, pepper and freshly grated Parmesan — emphasis on the freshly grated. You don’t want the cheese in a can for this recipe. Nope. Canned Parmesan doesn’t melt, so you definitely want the real stuff here.
For the blue cheese sauce, we start out by making a roux, which is a fancy way of saying whisk together equal parts flour and butter. After the roux cooks for a few minutes, whisk in heavy cream, fresh garlic and a touch of Dijon mustard. Let that simmer and then stir in the blue cheese until it mostly melts. Don’t worry if some blue cheese chunks remain lumpy. In most life instances, lumpy doesn’t sound like a positive, but we’re talking blue cheese here. Embrace the lumps.
Caramelized Onion Polenta Three Ways
At this point, I have three serving options for you:
- Top the polenta with the blue cheese sauce right away and serve for a soft, porridge-like consistency. If you go with this option, you’ll want to make the blue cheese sauce in the final 10 minutes of the polenta cooking.
- Pour the polenta into a buttered baking dish, let it sit until it solidifies and then bake it. This is a convenient option if you need to make the polenta ahead of time, and you can refrigerate it overnight. You know I love my make-ahead dishes when it comes to entertaining. For this option as well as the option below, it’s best to make the blue cheese sauce while the polenta bakes.
- Pour the polenta into a buttered dish, but rather wait until it solidifies, let it thicken just a bit and then bake it. The polenta develops a slight crust, which offers a nice texture contrast.
All three methods are delicious. For me, it ultimately comes down to which method sounds good at the moment and fits best with my schedule. The third option is pictured in case that helps.
Perfect Pairing for Caramelized Onion Polenta
An oatmeal stout is a classic pairing with blue cheese, and sometimes you can’t go wrong with a classic. Both the stout and blue cheese have that creamy body, and the stout’s sweetness contrasts from the saltiness of the cheese. I also don’t hate the idea of pairing this with a saison, which is a Belgian-style farmhouse ale. Blue cheese and saisons are funky little numbers, and pairing funk with more funk is just fun.
However, if you’d rather grab a glass of wine, a fruity cabernet sauvignon is a good call. A nice cab is bold enough to stand up to the blue cheese as well as the overall heartiness of this dish. I also love a cabernet with caramelized onions, so this pairing is basically a win-win.
With fall upon us, this caramelized onion polenta is the perfect recipe as comfort food feels a little more necessary. If you try this recipe, please leave a comment to let me know your thoughts, and don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter.
Big Fan of Comfort Food? Try These Burrata and Bubbles Recipes.
- Parmesan-crusted Brie grilled cheese with apricot, avocado and fresh herbs
- Grilled lobster fettuccine in lemon Alfredo sauce
- Bacon-pea orzo with citrusy beer-mascarpone sauce
- The best coq au vin
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This caramelized onion polenta with blue cheese sauce is the perfect comfort food. The caramelized onions and blue cheese sauce add a sweet yet tangy touch.
For Caramelized Onions
2 tablespoons butter
2 onions, sliced
Pinch of salt
Pinch of sugar
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup Parmesan, freshly grated
3 tablespoons butter, plus extra for greasing dish
Splash of heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste
For Blue Cheese Sauce
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup heavy cream
2 garlic cloves, grated
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 cup blue cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
- For caramelized onions, melt butter in a skillet over medium-low heat. Stir in onions and salt. Let cook undisturbed for about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with sugar and stir. Allow to continue cooking until browned and softened. Mostly leave undisturbed but give it a stir every eight to 10 minutes or so. This should take about as long as the polenta.
- In a saucepan, bring stock to a boil over medium-high heat. Constantly stirring with a wooden spoon, slowly pour in cornmeal.
- Reduce heat to low. Cover and cook for 30 to 40 minutes, vigorously stirring about every 10 minutes. The polenta is done when the grains soften to your liking. Turn off heat and stir in Parmesan and butter until they melt. Add heavy cream, salt and pepper. Stir in caramelized onions.
- You can serve polenta immediately or pour into a buttered dish for baking. If baking, you can either let the polenta set until it firms in texture or put it in the oven after about 10 minutes to keep the creamy consistency but develop a crust. To set the polenta, you can do this in room temperature or in the refrigerator overnight. If setting in the refrigerator, remove the dish for about 30 minutes to an hour before baking to prevent the dish from cracking. Bake at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes.
- For the blue cheese sauce, melt butter in skillet. Sprinkle flour over butter and constantly whisk for three minutes. Pour in heavy cream, garlic and Dijon mustard while whisking to prevent lumps. Once warm, stir in blue cheese until it’s somewhat melted but with some crumbles intact. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Whether you cook or also bake the polenta, prepare this about 10 minutes before the polenta is ready.
- Spoon blue cheese sauce over polenta. Enjoy!
- Category: Vegetarian
- Method: Stove Top and Baking
- Cuisine: Italian
Keywords: polenta, caramelized onion polenta, blue cheese sauce