I am generally not a fancy appetizers kind of gal, and in fact most of the time I am happy with hummus or some other dip, or nuts. You know, simple and tasty, not fussy. That all changes for the holidays. For Christmas parties I like the pretty stacked appetizers on crackers, baguette, or polenta toasts with different layers of flavor and color. A little cheese, plus something savory, and something a bit tart or sweet makes a tasty combination for a party appetizer.
For this appetizer, I toast sliced polenta, lay on a thin slice of goat cheese, add a layer of caramelized onions, and top it off with port cranberries. Port and cranberries go so well together, and that splash of color makes the plate so pretty. The caramelized onions cook overnight in a slow cooker, then you finish them off with a little chardonnay the next day. For a super fast appetizer, skip making the caramelized onions and buy a jar of onion chutney, which would be in the condiments aisle at your grocery store. Make sure it’s more savory than sweet to balance the cranberries.
The caramelized onions are very versatile, and you can flavor them with the suggested chardonnay, or change it up with white wine vinegar, white balsamic vinegar, or sherry. Save the broth from the onions; it adds rich flavor to soups.
Prepared polenta comes in rolls, which you can usually find in the Italian foods aisle of the grocery. Sun of Italy is the brand of prepared polenta I typically find in our stores. When you cut the roll open, the polenta may be a little wet, so be prepared to drain any liquid. If you have a toaster oven, you can make the polenta toast faster since it takes less time to preheat and shaves a couple minutes off cooking time.
The port cranberries are very easy to make in about 15 minutes. You can prepare them several days ahead and keep in the refrigerator until the day you need them. You can also make a full batch and use the rest for Christmas dinner.
The recipe is large enough for a gathering of 16 people with other dishes.
Polenta Toasts with Goat Cheese, Caramelized Onions, and Port Cranberries
- slow cooker
- 2-quart saucepan with lid
- 2 baking sheets lined with parchment
- 3 pounds yellow onions (peeled and sliced into half moons)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ cup chardonnay or balsamic vinegar
- ½ recipe Cranberries with Orange Zest and Port
- 16 ounces goat cheese log
- 48 ounces prepared polenta
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- Put the onion slices into the slow cooker, and toss with the olive oil and salt. Turn the slow cooker on LOW and cook until the onions are very soft, brown, and reduced, about 10 hours. Turn off the slow cooker, remove the lid, and allow the onions to cool completely. Put a colander over a medium bowl and pour the onions into the colander, allowing all of the liquid to drain out. Reserve the liquid for soups. Transfer the drained onions to the 2-quart saucepan and stir in the chardonnay or balsamic vinegar. Cook the onions uncovered over medium heat until the liquid reduces to almost dry, about 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow to cool.
- Preheat the oven to 350° F/175° C.
- Slice the polenta into 32 pieces, about 16 per roll. Lay the slices on the parchment-lined baking sheets and brush with a little olive oil. Bake in the preheated oven about 15 minutes. Turn each piece and brush with more olive oil, then return to the oven until the edges start to brown, about 15 more minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer to a plate lined with paper towel to drain and cool.
- To assemble, place a thin slice of goat cheese on each piece of polenta. Arrange some onion pieces on top of the cheese, then add a mound of the port cranberries.