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Gorgonzola stars in polenta, steak and tomato dish

Sometimes, just one ingredient brings an entire meal together. In today’s recipe, it’s the tanginess of a blue cheese.

Blue-veined cheeses can be rather sharp and overpowering. But in our recipe for Rosemary Steak Tips with Gorgonzola Polenta, the cheese complements the steak, tomatoes and polenta.

There are many blue-veined cheeses (also referred to as “bleu” cheese) that fall into the blue cheese category. They are injected and ripened with mold penicillium spores; this good mold gives the cheese that blue color.

Most familiar at grocery stores are these varieties: Danish blue, Gorgonzola, Maytag Blue, Point Reyes Bay Blue, Stilton and Roquefort. Many of these blue cheeses are white or ivory with blue marbling throughout. Others, like Stilton, are yellowish with darker marbling. The blue marbling can also vary, from just blue to bluish-green, gray and sometimes darker.

Some blue cheese varieties, like Roquefort, are made from sheep’s milk and others, like Maytag, from cow’s milk. Roquefort hails from France and is considered the king of blue cheeses with the strongest flavor. Maytag is an American blue cheese from Maytag Dairy Farms in Newton, Iowa – the former home of the appliance maker that’s now a part of Whirlpool.

When it comes to flavor, some blue cheeses like Maytag are slightly milder than, say, Stilton.

Gorgonzola, an Italian blue cheese hailing from northern Italy, is used in today’s recipe. It’s made from cow’s milk, but also can be made from a mix of cow’s and goat’s milk. Gorgonzola’s blue veins tend to be more bluish-green. The tanginess, depending on the brand, is fairly sharp. But I also find Gorgonzola a bit more salty than other blue cheeses. It’s sold in block form or pre-crumbled.

Carolyn Cowley, a cheese sales associate at Holiday Market in Royal Oak, Mich., says blue-veined cheeses are not for everything and finds them to be an acquired taste.

“Some, like Roquefort, are super strong, while others are mild or sweet,” she said. “It’s also the mold, which is a good mold, but some people don’t like that.”

So if blue cheese has an aroma that is naturally strong or pungent, how do you know if it’s bad?

Cowley, says be sure to give it the sniff test. Bad blue and other cheeses “will take on an ammonia smell.”

In today’s recipe, the blue cheese crumbles melt into the polenta so the cornmeal-based side dish is rich and creamy tasting. Depending on how you like your polenta, you can add milk or cream to reach the desired consistency.

Rosemary steak tips with Gorgonzola polenta

Use your favorite blue cheese for this recipe, but keep it on the mild side. Stilton and Roquefort are too strong. If the polenta is not as creamy as you would like, add a little milk or cream to thin it out. Adapted from Cook’s Country magazine, March 2016 issue.

1 1/2 pounds sirloin steak tips, trimmed and cut into 2-inch chunks

Salt and pepper

1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh rosemary

4 cups water

1 cup instant polenta

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

10 ounces grape tomatoes, halved

1 cup (4 ounces) crumbled Gorgonzola cheese

To easily cut the steak into chunks, freeze it for 20 minutes. Once cut into chunks, let it sit about 20 minutes to come to room temperature. Pat the chunks dry with paper towels.

In a medium bowl, combine rosemary, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Add the steak chunks and toss to coat with the rosemary mixture. Set aside.

In a large saucepan, bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat. Whisk in polenta, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until thickened, about 3 minutes. Off heat, stir in 3 tablespoons butter, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Cover and keep warm.

Heat oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add steak and cook until well browned on all sides and the meat registers 125 degrees (for medium-rare), about 7 minutes. Transfer to plate and tent with foil.

Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter in the same skillet over medium high heat. Add tomatoes and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until just softened, about 1 minute. Transfer to plate with steak along with any pan juices. Serve steak and tomatoes over polenta, sprinkled with Gorgonzola.

Yield: 4 servings

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