- 1 cup dried figs, preferably Turkish, stems removed, cut into quarters
- ½ cup grappa (or Cognac or brandy)
- 2 cups cooked and peeled chestnuts (if fresh chestnuts are unavailable, substitute 2 cups frozen or jarred chestnuts, crumbled or coarsely chopped)
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 medium onions, thinly sliced
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
- 8 cups water
- 2 cups coarse cornmeal
- 6 tablespoons buckwheat flour (available at health food stores or whole-foods grocery stores)
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan
- ¼ pound Gorgonzola
Buckwheat flour, polenta, Gorgonzola, chestnuts, and grappa are all staples of the cuisine of Lombardy.
- Combine the figs and grappa in a small saucepan over low heat, taking care not to ignite the alcohol. Bring to a simmer, remove from the heat, and let steep for 30 minutes. The figs should be tender and all the grappa should be absorbed. If there is still grappa remaining, remove the figs, put the pan on the stove, and reduce to almost a glaze. Pour over the figs. Set aside.
- Heat the butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. When the foam subsides, add the onions and season with salt and pepper. Cook until tender and golden, 10 minutes. Add the chestnuts, season with salt and pepper, and cook until golden and tender, about 4 minutes. (If using frozen or jarred chestnuts, they may not color; just heat them through.) Remove from the heat, add the sage, and set aside.
- Bring the water to a boil in a large saucepan over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon salt and then add the polenta in a slow, steady stream through your fingers, whisking constantly so it doesn’t clump up. Do the same with the buckwheat flour. If you get any lumps, mash them against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon and keep stirring. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently, until the polenta is thick and shiny and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan, about 30 minutes. Regulate the heat as necessary so the mixture doesn’t boil over. Season with salt and pepper.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450°F.
- Rub a glazed 9-inch shallow casserole or deep-dish pie plate with vegetable oil. When the polenta is done, pour one-third of it into the casserole. Cover with the chestnuts. Sprinkle with ¼ cup of the Parmesan. Pour another third of the polenta over the chestnuts. Scatter the figs over it and dot with the Gorgonzola. Cover with pepper and the remaining Parmesan.
- Bake the polenta until bubbling and heated through, 12 to 15 minutes. Serve immediately.