I tried out a brand-new recipe tonight, one that blended braised leeks, tomatoes, and olives served over polenta medallions. I happened to also make it with seared catfish fillets, but that’s completely optional if you’re looking for a veggie or vegan meal. This is modified from the recipe in last week’s Wall Street Journal by New Zealand native (and London transplant) Margot Henderson in a wonderful column called “Slow Food Fast.” Let’s start!
Begin, as usual, by assembling your ingredients. You’ll need 5 to 6 fresh leeks, washed and trimmed; 3/4 cup of pitted black olives (I used Kalamatas); 2/3 cup of dry red wine (Cabernet Sauvignon was my pick); 8 garlic cloves, crushed; one 16-ounce package of polenta; about one pound of fresh catfish fillets, cut into 4 servings (the catfish is OPTIONAL); and (not shown) one 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes; about 4 to 5 tablespoons of olive oil; salt and pepper to taste, plus 1 1/2 teaspoons of dried thyme leaves; and (optional) 4 bay leaves.
Sear the catfish pieces on both sides. And “sear” means “sear” — don’t cook, just quickly sear them to make them nice and crispy brown on the edges.
Transfer the catfish pieces to a baking pan either sprayed with cooking spray (such as Pam) or lightly greased. Now, preheat the oven to 375 degrees, Fahrenheit (about 190 degrees Celsius). Trim the leeks, being careful to clean the green ends of all dirt and debris, then cut into thirds and then cut into halves.
Sear the leeks on both sides, cooking about 1-2 minutes per side until lightly browned.
Crush the garlic cloves and add to the leeks.
Now pour the dry red wine over the leeks and cook over medium heat until the wine has reduced by about one-half.
Either place the leeks in a cooking pan or (if using fish) pack them around the seared fillets.
Now, add the olives to the still-hot sauté pan, which should still have some red wine and garlic in it.
Pour in the crushed tomatoes and stir, then add the thyme leaves. Heat and then pour over the leeks (and, optional, fish) in the baking pan.
While the leeks (and fish) are baking, clean the sauté pan and then add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to heat. Slice the package of polenta into 1/2 inch slices.
Sauté in the hot olive oil for about 2 minutes per side, until the edges begin to brown. Flip and sauté on the other side.
Remove from heat. Place two to three polenta medallions per plate, then spoon the fish and leek-tomato-olive mixture over it. Serve with either a dry red (such as a Cabernet Sauvignon) or a dry white (such as a Sauvignon Blanc).
Tonight, we were undecided on our wine of choice, so we tried both a Virginia Sauvignon Blanc (Breaux Vineyards’s 2014 Grand Oak Sauvignon Blanc) and a Cab Sauvignon (the 2009 Cab Sauvignon Reserve from Pollak Vineyards). Both paired beautifully with the meal. The Sauvignon Blanc added a lovely bright uplift while the Cab Sauvignon really brought out the earthiness of the leeks and tomatoes. (You can read more about both wines on the GoughPubs Facebook page.)