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A cheesy Haitian-style polenta casserole

This cheesy Haitian-style polenta casserole is comfort food at its best. The recipe below highlights the key ingredients and substitute cream for the traditional bechamel. Feel free to adjust the seasoning to your taste.

Prep Time 2 hours
Cook Time 45 minutes

Ingredients

For the meat

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 2-3 garlic heads chopped
  • ½ bell pepper chopped
  • ½ Onion chopped
  • 3-4 Lime juice
  • 1 Piment bouc
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste

For the polenta

  • 1 cup of cornmeal
  • ½ tsp of salt
  • ¼ tsp of black pepper
  • 1 garlic head
  • 1 tsp of dried thyme
  • 1 piment bouc habanero pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 diced tomato
  • ½ bell pepper sliced
  • ½ onion chopped
  • 3 cups of water

For the blistered tomatoes

  • 1 pint of cherry tomatoes regular tomatoes would work as well
  • ½ cup of white wine or cooking wine
  • 2-3 garlic heads chopped
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • 1 tbsp of sugar
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

For the creamy sauce

  • ½ cup of cream
  • 1/8 tsp of pepper
  • 3 garlic heads chopped
  • ½ piment bouc chopped
  • Lime juice optional

For the inner layers and topping

  • Grated cheddar use tête de maure cheese for a fully Haitian version

Instructions

For the meat

  1. Season the beef
  2. Heat a skillet coated with oil
  3. Add the meat to the hot pan
  4. Cook the meat fully making sure to break it into smaller pieces
  5. Brown
  6. Remove from heat and set aside

For the polenta

  1. Prepare a broth with the water, garlic head, piment bouc, salt, pepper, thyme, oil
  2. Bring to a boil
  3. Add the cornmeal, tomatoes, onion and bell pepper
  4. Stir constantly until the water is absorbed
  5. Simmer for about 15 minutes while stirring occasionally to keep the polenta from sticking to the bottom of the pan
  6. Remove the garlic head and piment bouc

For the blistered tomatoes

  1. Heat a skillet
  2. Add the olive oil and chopped garlic
  3. Cook until fragrant
  4. Incorporate the whole cherry tomatoes
  5. Pour the wine and sugar
  6. Let simmer making sure to toss the tomatoes so they can be coated on all sides

  7. When the tomatoes begin to blister and the wine is reduced to half, season them with the salt and pepper
  8. Remove from heat

For the creamy sauce

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and set aside

Putting it all together

  1. Butter a baking dish
  2. Alternate layers of cooked polenta, ground beef, tomatoes, cream and cheese
  3. Repeat layers until there’s no more polenta or meat
  4. Top generously with cheese
  5. Bake until the cheese has fully melted and is golden

  6. Remove from oven and let cool
  7. Serve warm with your favorite salad (optional)