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The Great Summer Smokeout

Pineapple Upside-Down Polenta Cake

Katherine Clapner, Dude, Sweet Chocolate

Photograph by Jody Horton


4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3/8 cup lightly packed light-brown sugar
3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup cacao nibs
4 rings fresh pineapple (peeled and cored), sliced about 1/2 inch thick and cut into cubes 

Preheat grill. In a 10-inch cast-iron skillet, combine butter, brown sugar, cream, and nibs. Over medium-high heat bring to a boil. Reduce to a high simmer by moving to a cooler part of grill. Reduce the liquid by half, until it is the consistency of a thick caramel sauce. Add pineapple and cook until liquid is again reduced to thick caramel consistency, 5 to 10 minutes. 

Polenta Cake

2 1/2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
seeds of half a vanilla bean (reserve seeds from other half)
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 cup sugar 
1 cup coarse cornmeal, yellow or white
4 ounces drained ricotta or mascarpone

In a separate 10-inch cast-iron skillet over high heat, combine the first six ingredients and whisk until they come to a boil. In stages, whisk in the cornmeal. Cook, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon, until mixture is consistency of thick oatmeal (takes only a few minutes; a spoonful placed on a plate will hold its shape). Stir in ricotta. 

Pour the polenta mixture over the pineapple mixture in its skillet (do not stir). Gently rap skillet on a counter to dislodge any air bubbles. Smooth top of polenta and cool skillet to room temperature (cake should be about the texture of bread pudding). When set, invert onto a large platter. 

Berry Topping

1 sprig each of rosemary and thyme and a fennel frond reserved vanilla bean seeds
juice and zest of 1 lime
3/4 cup sugar, or more to taste
1 1/2 cups apricot rakia (a fruit brandy) or brandy, or less to taste
3 pints assorted fresh berries

In a small cast-iron skillet, combine everything but the berries and cook over low coals until mixture is consistency of a light syrup (reduce by about half). Meanwhile, stem berries and cut large ones in half, or slice. Strain sugar mixture and pour over berries. Serve on the side or pour over cake. 

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