I absolutely adore polenta. It has such a perfect texture and flavor. But today mushrooms are the main focus of this dish. I’ve been on a mushroom rampage ever since Steven complained that we hadn’t been enjoying them very often. Well, by now, obviously, I disagree. Look here for some other exciting dishes that feature the classic edible fungus: Ramen noodle soup with shiitake and tremella mushrooms, baked portobellos stuffed with shiitake tomato filling, linguine with chick pea, mushroom and spinach, and mushroom and pink bean loaf. It is fun working with mushrooms and discovering how versatile they are.
This recipe is somewhat like ajwain seed flavored angú with leeks, fava beans and cheddar in that it has things layered over soft polenta. Here, I concentrated the mushroom flavors by pan-roasting them prior to adding oil or salt. This way the mushrooms won’t turn out soggy and have an intense, mushroom-y flavor. Try it and you’ll never go back to any other method.
sautéed Porcini and Shiitake mushrooms with Fontina over polenta
1lb instant Italian polenta (I like la polenta Beretta brand)
2 quarts (~2 liters) homemade vegetable broth; from carrots, celery and onions
6 tbsp olive oil
kosher salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper
1 cup grated Fontina cheese
1 lb fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed then quartered
1 lb fresh porcini mushrooms, cut in halves
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
½ tsp dried or fresh thyme
To prepare vegetable stock:
Fill a large pot with water and add carrot, onion and celery. Bring to a boil then reduce temperature to low and simmer for 15 minutes. Discard vegetables.
Pre-heat oven to 357F.
To make polenta:
Bring 2 quarts vegetable stock to a boil. Remove from heat. Add salt, black pepper, 3 tbsp olive oil and polenta. Whisk vigorously to prevent lumps from forming. Place over medium heat constantly stirring for about 10 minutes. Reduce temperature to low to keep warm.
To prepare mushrooms:
Meanwhile heat up a nonstick skillet, add mushrooms (if pan is too small cook mushroom in batches) and pan roast them for about 10 minutes. Move mushrooms to side of the pan, add 2 tbsp olive oil and garlic to center and cook for about a minute. Fold mushrooms into garlic oil. Move mushrooms to the side of the pan again and add sherry vinegar. It will evaporate fast. Let it bubble a bit before mixing the mushroom in again. Add salt, thyme and 1 tbsp olive oil. Remove from heat.
Transfer polenta to a glass baking dish, top with Fontina followed by sautéed mushrooms. Bake long enough for cheese to melt. Serve with a hearty red wine.