Steal This Recipe® Crisp Polenta a la Puttanesca

July 17, 2014

From Chef Matthew Jansen of Mateo Restaurant Provençal, Boulder

This recipe for Crisp Polenta a la Puttanesca, (including a secret blend for the perfect puttanesca sauce), was stolen with permission from Chef Matthew Jansen of Mateo Restaurant Provençal in Boulder, Colorado. We suggest that if you're in Boulder, you treat yourself to the old style cooking and warm atmosphere of Mateo Restaurant Provençal. And if you're not, give this recipe a try - it's vegetarian - and gluten free!

About the chef: Matthew Jansen grew up in Boulder and went on to earn a degree in Journalism from the University of Colorado and participated as a member of the National Ski Team. In the early nineties during his tenure at Laudisio, CO, he earned his sommelier certificate from the Court of Master Sommeliers of London, England.

In 1996, Jansen left Boulder to experience a sample of the best restaurant operations across the country, and found a position as sommelier and captain at Valentino in Santa Monica, California. With one of the most extensive wine lists in the world and the country's top rated Italian cuisine, he was able to refine his skills and gain invaluable insight into the world of fine dining.

After a year in Santa Monica, he then went to San Francisco, where he found a position as general manager and sommelier with Next Century Restaurant Group. He went on to hold leading roles with the Group, including well-known local establishments such as Aqua, Aqua Bellagio, and Charles Nob Hill. Jansen then decided it was time to take the important step towards owning his own establishment. After returning to Boulder, he formed 75 LLC and conceived his original concept for Mateo, which opened in October of 2001.

Mateo Restaurant Provençal
1837 Pearl Street 
Boulder, Colorado 80302 

Crisp Polenta a la Puttanesca is served at Mateo Restaurant Provençal for $17. 
This recipe makes 4 restaurant servings.

This is a 2-part recipe: 
*Puttanesca Sauce

Polenta Ingredients: 
4 1/2 cups vegetable stock (made in house at Mateo) 
2 Tbsp butter (Mateo recommends unsalted Plugra European style butter) 
1 Tbsp salt (Mateo recommends kosher salt) 
1 bay leaf 
1/2 cup grated parmesan (Mateo recommends Reggiano-Parmigiano) 
1 1/2 cups polenta (Mateo recommends Anson Mills heirloom polenta)

*Puttanesca Sauce Ingredients: 
1 1/4 lb whole peeled tomatoes (Mateo recommends in-season tomatoes or canned San Marzano) 
3/4 cup shallots, minced 
1/4 cup nicoise olives, pitted and chopped 
1/2 cup green Sicilian olives, pitted and chopped 
1/4 cup pepperoncini, chopped 
2 Tbsp red chili flakes 
1/4 cup capers (Mateo recommends small non-pareilles) 

Plating Ingredients: 
Extra virgin olive oil (optional) 
Parmesan shavings (optional)

Polenta Steal This Recipe® Step-by-Step Instructions: 
Bring vegetable stock, butter, salt and bay leaf to a boil. 
Slowly whisk polenta into boiling stock, make sure the consistency is smooth. 
Add parmesan. 
Reduce to low heat and cook for 30 minutes. 
Pour creamy polenta onto a sheet tray using a rubber spatula to smooth the surface (use a non-stick tray that will allow the polenta to remain approximately 3/4 inch thick). 
Refrigerate polenta in sheet tray until completely cold and firm. 
Cut polenta into 3/4 inch cubes and remove from tray with a spatula. 
Depending on the desired crispness, flash fry at 400 degrees for 2 minutes or bake at 500 degrees for 8 minutes. 
Tip: The polenta cubes have a tendency to stick together, so gently shake when frying or separate before baking.

*Puttanesca Sauce Steal This Recipe® Step-by-Step Instructions: 
Sweat shallots in stock pot until soft and cooked through. 
Combine remaining ingredients in stock pot and slowly simmer for 1 hour. 
Cut tomatoes with the spatula while occasionally stirring the sauce. 
Salt to taste, although oftentimes the olives, capers, and tomatoes contain the desired sodium level.

Plating Steal This Recipe® Step-by-Step Instructions: 
Place a 4 oz ladle of Puttanesca Sauce at the base of a bowl. 
Place 12 – 14 cubes of crisp polenta over the sauce. 
Top off with a drizzle of olive oil and parmesan shavings.