Baked Polenta with Apples, Gruyere, and Bacon

by Kelly on May 20, 2010

It is amazing what a difference time and patience really make. It’s been almost a month since I emotionally admitted I was struggling with my move. Now I feel like I am in an entirely different place; I am recognizing the little steps I have made toward making my new city feel like home, but also not overlooking the positive aspects of newness. In particular, I appreciate the unique things that I’m discovering about the city and its people, the kind that seem distinctly different from how I knew Boston. For example, in just about any conversation, regardless of topic, once people find out I’m new they always tell me how much I am going to love the summers here. It is seriously rare that it doesn’t come up in conversation. (I have such high expectations now that I hope I won’t be disapointed.) I’ve also learned that most people feel really passionately about their neighborhoods. I experienced it somewhat in Boston, but nowhere near the degree I do here. It actually made finding a place a little difficult since everyone had such strong thoughts, and most were different from one another. And last, and I promise this is where it gets food-related, I’m realizing brunch is an institution. Never have I seen so many places doing creative things with food before noon or so many willing patrons happy to line up to enjoy it.

It made me realize how much my weekly meal plan tends to be lacking in the breakfast department. Much of this stems from the fact that I’m an indecisive menu planner. It’s quite the case of being paralyzed by the overwhelming number of possibilities. This means that by the time my lunches and dinners are set, coming up with breakfast ideas seems too exhausting. It’s the reason I end up at mediocre bagel places for breakfast more often then I’d care to admit. This weekend I decided enough was enough and whipped up something I thought worthy of being inspired by the Chicago brunch scene. Having recently eaten some Shrimp and Grits at Wishbone that left me smitten, I knew some kind of savory breakfast porridge was in order.

Apple bacon polenta

Enter my Baked Polenta with Apples, Gruyere, and Bacon. Adapted from a Bon Appetit recipe for Grits with Ham Hocks and Sauteed Apples, this recipe is a great alternative to home fries or other breakfast side dishes. It balances the fine line between sweet and savory and is extra decadent with a poached egg on top. The runny yolk makes for the simplest and tastiest sauce. The only downside to this recipe is that leftovers simply do not compare to eating this hot, straight from the oven. It definitely loses the decadent creamy texture so I recommend making this for an occasion where it can be eaten in one sitting with minimal leftovers.

Baked Polenta with Apples, Gruyere, and Bacon
Serves 6

-6 cups chicken stock
-1 1/3 cups uncooked polenta
-2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
-4 slices thick cut bacon
-1 tablespoon butter
-2 large Granny Smith apples (about 1 pound), cored and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
-2 tablespoons brown sugar
-1 tablespoon honey
-1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
-1/4 teaspoon grated orange peel
-1 1/2 cups shredded Gruyere cheese


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Bring the 6 cups of chicken stock to a boil in a saucepan. Gradually whisk in the polenta. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the mixture thickens and the polenta is tender, stirring often, about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and add in the thyme.

In a second pan, cook the bacon until desired texture is reached. Remove from the pan, pat dry of excess grease, and chop into 1/2-inch pieces. Add the butter to the pan over medium high heat until it begins to brown. Add the apples and saute until tender, about 9 minutes. Add all remaining ingredients EXCEPT cheese; stir to blend.

Add apple mixture, the bacon and one cup of the cheese to the polenta. Stir until well combined. Transfer mixture to a 13x9x2 inch oval dish (or something of similar capacity) that has been greased or coated with cooking spray. Top mixture with remaining cheese. Bake until cheese is golden, about 30 minutes.

Related Posts with Thumbnails

{ 2 trackbacks }

Blueberry Cobbler with Polenta Topping
June 30, 2010 at 7:03 am
Apple Butter Coconut Crumble Bars
May 18, 2011 at 11:54 pm

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Lauren May 20, 2010 at 6:43 am

I love the combination of flavors in this brunch-worthy dish. I’m a big fan of pairing savory and sweet flavors together!

I’ve been to Chicago during the summer months, and it is glorious :). I’m glad to read that you’re acclimating to your new city… and if you’re ever back in Boston give me a shout!


Jessica @ How Sweet May 20, 2010 at 6:43 am

Gruyere AND bacon? Those are 2 of my most favorite things!


Victoria May 20, 2010 at 7:30 am

Oh, I’m so glad you’re enjoying Chicago! I miss it so much! And yes, you will love the summers. They’re the only reason people stand the winters. Also, I want to eat that right. now.


CaSaundra May 20, 2010 at 8:28 am

It’s great to hear you’re starting to feel at home!! I am coming to Chicago Aug. 12-15 for the Healthy Living Summit–maybe we can finally meet up! 🙂


brandi May 20, 2010 at 9:58 am

YUM. Love bacon, love cheese, love grits. This looks like it would be a great breakfast, lunch, OR dinner, which are my favorite kind of recipes.

PS – if you have a minute, vote for me!


Bethany May 20, 2010 at 6:15 pm

I love reading about how you’re adjusting to Chicago! And I have a brunch occasion coming up at our house… maybe I’ll make this, it’d definitely get eaten in one sitting!


Cara May 21, 2010 at 11:34 am

love the sweet and savory combo! and glad to hear you are enjoying life in Chicago 🙂


Teresa May 22, 2010 at 11:38 am

Kelly, this sounds yummy. The bacon, apples, butter, polenta. Who could ask for a better and more delicious breakfast? Great recipe. So, is Chicago really all that windy?


Carolyn Jung May 24, 2010 at 8:57 pm

Glad you are feeling more at home in your new place. Moving is always jarring. But it’s also filled with excitement, new adventures and wonderful discoveries just waiting to happen.


Bren May 25, 2010 at 12:46 am

Nice to find you through my good friend over at Duo Dishes. I’ll take your polenta sans the bacon. Anything with corn in it, and I’m there!


Mo May 25, 2010 at 11:31 am

Sounds like you are not only adjusting but flourishing in your new home. This recipe reminds that I don’t make polenta nearly often enough. I can’t wait to try it!


Nurit - 1 family. friendly. food. May 25, 2010 at 12:31 pm

The recipe sounds so good. I’ve never thought of polenta with a sweet and savory flavor combination. Especially not with cinnamon, orange peel, apples… Yum.
A runny egg yolk does magic to any food 😉


Julie May 25, 2010 at 4:26 pm

Hi Kelly,
I just stumbled across your blog and saw that you recently moved to Chicago from Boston. I moved to Chicago in the middle of last summer (and yes, summer is so fun!) and lived in Boston from ’97-2004. I still miss Boston sometimes, but I honestly think Chicago is bigger and better–so many great neighborhoods (I’m in Ukrainian Village/Wicker Park-Bucktown). Have you found any brunch favorites yet? Jam is the best!!


Nora Phillips May 25, 2010 at 4:40 pm

Looks fantastic! Lived in Chicago for 6 years. Go to Pizza Art Cafe in Ravenswood Manor (and Spacca Napoli in Ravenswood) if you haven’t already!


Josie December 24, 2010 at 4:43 pm

Fantastic recipe, Kelly. Thank you for posting. I also did a favorite step of mine and oven-roasted the apple slices at 350F for 20-25 minutes before tossing them into the fat. Just long enough so the tips browned. Then instead of the saute, you just toss them in the saucier with the butter and coat them before adding to the rest.

I even found a Gruyere at the local grocery that was smoked with applewood. What a combo! Gave it so much depth of flavor.

Miss the Jazz on Navy Pier in the summer. Cheers from Atlanta!


Kelly December 26, 2010 at 9:45 pm


Glad you enjoyed the recipe. Oven-roasting the apple slices sounds like a fantastic idea. I’ve never seen smoked applewood before but that sounds absolutely delicious. I’m going to have to seek that out. Thanks for visiting my site.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: