Chef Maxwell's recipe for Chickpea Polenta with Roasted Asparagus and Brown Sauce

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This recipe was prepared by Chef John Maxwell on Real Virginia, Virginia Farm Bureau’s weekly television program.

Maxwell, a certified executive chef, culinary educator and member of the American Academy of Chefs, shares delicious seasonal recipes in a Real Virginia segment sponsored by Virginia Grown, a program of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Chickpea Polenta with Roasted Asparagus and Brown Sauce

Polenta ingredients:

4 cups stock (chicken, fish, meat, or vegetable)
4 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
3 cups chickpea flour (besan or garbanzo bean flour)
2 tablespoons chives

In a saucepan, combine the stock, olive oil and salt and pepper. Gradually whisk in the chickpea flour until smooth. Set over medium heat, and whisk constantly as the batter slowly heats. It will thicken and eventually steam but does not need to boil. Cook and keep whisking, scraping the bottom and sides of the pan frequently, until the mixture is quite stiff and starts to pull away from the sides as you stir it, about 15-20 minutes.

Turn the batter into an oiled pan, and spread it quickly with a spatula before it cools and sets; it should fill the pan in an even layer. Wet the spatula with water, and smooth the top of the batter. Let cool for an hour or longer, until completely firm.

Cut pieces with a sharp knife, in whatever size or shape you like and in the amount you need. Lift the cut pieces from the pan with a spatula (Seal the remainder with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for longer keeping). Makes about 25 4" squares.

NOTE: To make panelle, which are Sicilian fritters, pour enough extra-virgin olive oil into a heavy skillet to cover the bottom with 1/8" of oil and set over medium heat. When the oil is hot, lay in the polenta squares, leaving plenty of space between them. Fry about 3 minutes, until the undersides are crisp and golden, then flip them over and brown the second side, about 2 minutes more. Set the panelle on paper towels to drain and cool for a minute, but serve while they are still warm (though they taste good at room temperature too!).

Sauce Ingredients:

1/8 cup vegetable oil
¾ cup 1" carrot pieces
¾ cup 1" parsnip pieces
¾ cup 1" celery pieces
6 cloves garlic, peeled
¾ cup coarsely diced shallots
¾ cup quartered crimini or other mushrooms
6 ounces 1" onion pieces
1 cup full-bodied dry red wine
1½ quarts vegetable stock
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
3 tablespoons tomato paste

In a 3-quart or larger saucepan, heat the oil and add the carrots, parsnips, celery, garlic, shallots, mushrooms and onions. Sauté the vegetables until they are dark brown and softened. Add the tomato paste, and stir to distribute. Allow the tomato paste to cook for at least 5 minutes. The oils in the tomato paste will begin to separate out, and the paste will begin to brown, or caramelize. You may have to lower the heat to avoid scorching. Deglaze the pot with the red wine. This stops the cooking, and the resulting liquid should be a rich brown. Add the vegetable stock, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer. Add the herbs and the black pepper, and continue to simmer until the volume has been reduced by half. Sauce should have enough consistency to coat the back of a spoon. Strain and hold hot for service.


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