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Polenta Custard with Port-Stewed Autumn Fruits

Polenta Custard with Port-Stewed Autumn Fruits

Ingredients:

For the stewed fruits:

  • 3 cups port wine
  • 3 Tbs. honey
  • 10 whole cloves
  • 3 pears, preferably Bosc, peeled, halved and cored
  • 1 1/8 cups large dried apricots

For the polenta custard:

  • 1/4 cup grappa or other brandy
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 2 1/4 cups milk
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup Italian polenta
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten

For the topping:

  • 1/3 cup crème fraîche blended with 2 Tbs. milk
  • Confectioners’ sugar

Directions:

To make the stewed fruits, in a saucepan over high heat, combine the port, honey and cloves. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low so that the port simmers. Add the pear halves and cook gently until tender and slightly translucent but not mushy, 20 to 30 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pears to a cutting board. Discard the cloves. Add the apricots to the simmering port and cook gently until soft, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, cut the pear halves lengthwise into wedges. When the apricots are done, remove the pan from the heat and add the pear wedges. Set aside.

To make the polenta custard, in a saucepan over medium heat, warm the brandy until hot. Remove from the heat, add the raisins and let stand for 30 minutes. In a large saucepan over high heat, combine the milk and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and slowly whisk in the polenta. Continue to whisk for 2 to 3 minutes. Change to a wooden spoon and continue to simmer, stirring periodically, until the polenta is almost thick enough to hold the spoon upright, 15 to 20 minutes.

Preheat an oven to 375°F. Generously butter six 1/2-cup ramekins.

In a large bowl, mix together the ricotta and sugar. Add the cooked polenta and stir well. Drain the raisins and add them along with the cinnamon to the polenta. Stir in the eggs. Distribute evenly among the prepared ramekins. Place the ramekins, spaced well apart, on a baking sheet. Bake until set and a knife inserted into the center of a custard comes out clean, 20 to 22 minutes.

Just before the custards are done, gently reheat the fruits. Divide them and their liquid among 6 individual plates. Loosen the edges of the custards with a knife and invert them over the fruits. Drizzle with the crème frîache mixture. Dust the tops with confectioners' sugar and serve.
Serves 6.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Seasonal Celebration Series, Winter, by Joanne Weir (Time-Life Books, 1997).