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Polenta Squares & Shellfish Stew

Waldy Malouf is the chef and co-owner of the Beacon restaurant in New York City. He is well-known in the food world for his work at some of New York's finest restaurants, including the Four Seasons and the Rainbow Room. His first cookbook, "The Hudson River Valley Cookbook," was nominated for an IACP/Julia Child Cookbook Award.

Over the years, Malouf has garnered a distinguished reputation for establishing an excellent rapport with his teams of chefs, and is viewed as a mentor by many in the industry. He has developed and nurtured long-term, deeply felt relationships with local farmers and growers.

His latest cookbook came out in the summer of 2003. The book is titled, "High Heat." He wanted to share with home cooks the idea that it's easy to achieve great flavor when using open-flame grilling and hot oven cooking. This cookbook will show home cooks how to prepare things both indoors and out. He believes people need to rely on high heat to bring out the most delicious and fundamental flavors of any food - caramelizing the natural sugars and turning the foods golden brown.

The first course is polenta. It is the Italian version of cornmeal mush. Coarsely ground yellow cornmeal is cooked with stock or water and flavored with onions, garlic, and cheese. Polenta may be eaten fresh out of the pot, as a perfect accompaniment to stews. Polenta may also be poured into a greased pan and allowed to set. You can then slice it, sauté it and top it off with cheese or tomato sauce. This recipe is topped off with sautéed broccoli rabe and cheese.

Broccoli rabe (pronounced broccoli robb) is a leafy green vegetable that is frequently eaten in southern Italy and has become popular in the United States. The vegetable has a slightly bitter taste and is frequently steamed or lightly sauteed in olive oil. The broccoli rabe flower looks similar to the broccoli florets. Despite the name, this plant is not a type of broccoli, but is in the same brassica family.

Chorizo is a highly spiced, coarsely ground pork sausage, widely used in Spanish and Mexican cooking.

Blue cheese has been treated with molds that form the blue or green veins that give it its characteristic flavor. All blue cheeses smell strong but some varieties actually are quite mild.


Serves 4

4 cups chicken or vegetable broth (low-sodium if canned) or water
1 cup polenta
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea or kosher salt, plus additional to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus additional to taste
1 pound broccoli rabe, trimmed
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes, or to taste
2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter (or use extra-virgin olive oil)
1 cup grated fresh mozzarella cheese (about 4 ounces)


  • Bring the broth to a boil in a medium saucepan. Turn the heat down to medium and add the polenta in a thin stream, stirring constantly with a whisk. Continue cooking, whisking all the while, until the polenta is quite thick, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in 1/2 cup of the Parmesan and season with the salt and pepper (add extra salt to taste if using water to cook the polenta). Pour into 9-by-13-inch baking pan, smoothing the top with a rubber spatula, and allow to cool, about 30 minutes. At this point, the polenta can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 2 days.
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Fill a bowl with water and ice. Blanch the broccoli rabe in the boiling water until crisp-tender, about 1 minute. Drain and cool in the ice water. Drain well and chop coarsely.
  • Warm the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the broccoli rabe and red pepper flakes and toss to coat with the oil. Add 1/2 cup water and simmer, covered, for 2 minutes. Uncover and continue to simmer if the broccoli rabe is too soupy. Season with salt.
  • Preheat the broiler. Cut the chilled polenta into 4 portions and brush them with the melted butter or olive oil.
  • Lay the polenta on a baking sheet and broil, 5 inches from the heat source, turning once, until the polenta is golden and slightly crisp on the outside, and thoroughly warmed, about 10 minutes.
  • Combine the remaining ½ cup of Parmesan with the mozzarella. Lay the polenta in a large pan and top with the broccoli rabe mixture. Sprinkle the cheeses over all and return to the broiler or a covered grill until the cheese is melted and bubbling.


    Serves 4

    16 cherry stone or topneck clams
    32 mussels, scrubbed in cold water and debearded
    2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    16 jumbo shrimp, de-veined (leave their shells on)
    1/2 pound chorizo, sliced on the bias
    1/2 spanish onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
    3 garlic cloves, chopped
    6 small red bliss or fingerling potatoes, scrubbed, halved and thinly sliced
    2 large, ripe tomatoes, cored and diced
    1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
    1/2 cup dry white wine (optional)
    2 cups chicken or vegetable broth (low-sodium if canned)
    3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garnish


  • Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Wash the clams and mussels in a bowl of cold water, changing the water several times. Discard any shellfish that don't close when tapped.
  • In a flameproof, ovenproof casserole or very large skillet over high heat, warm 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the shrimp and cook, stirring, until the shells are slightly browned, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
  • Preheat the broiler. Cut the chilled polenta into 4 portions and brush them with the melted butter or olive oil.
  • Add the remaining Tablespoon of oil to the pan. Add the sausage and cook, stirring occasionally, until well browned on all sides, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the onion and sauté until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to cook for 1 minute longer. Stir in the potatoes, tomatoes, and red pepper flakes. Pour in the wine and bring to a simmer. Let cook for 30 seconds. Add the broth and stir in the shrimp, clams, and mussels.
  • Place the casserole in the oven and roast until the clams and mussels have opened, about 15 to 20 minutes. Serve garnished with the parsley.

    Serves 4

    4 large ripe peaches, halved and pitted
    1 cup sugar
    1 teaspoon
    1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
    3/4 cup sliced almonds
    3 tablespoons roquefort or other blue cheese, crumbled


  • Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.
  • In saucepan, combine the sugar with 2/3 cup of water and the vanilla bean and bring to boil, stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves. Simmer for 2 minutes, then set aside.
  • Score the peach halves with an X mark on their skin sides. Put them in a large bowl and add the sugar syrup, vanilla bean, and balsamic vinegar. Toss to coat. Place the almonds in a small pan with a heat-proof handle.
  • Arrange the peaches skin side down in a single layer in a 9-by-13-inch roasting pan. Pour the balsamic syrup over the peaches and roast, basting once or twice, for 8 minutes. Turn the peaches over and roast for another 5 to 10 minutes, until the peaches are soft and their skins look caramelized. Meanwhile, place the pan of almonds in the oven and toast, tossing them frequently, until they are golden and fragrant, about 3 to 5 minutes.
  • To serve, place two peaches, skin side down, on each plate. Sprinkle with blue cheese, drizzle with more of the balsamic syrup, and garnish with the toasted almonds.
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