Saturday, November 20, 2010

Polenta and Mushrooms with Basil Almond Cream

There are two schools of polenta. Some people like it super rich with all kinds of added flavors and fat. And then there are the purists who like it cooked with nothing besides water and some salt and maybe pepper. I confess I used to like the super-rich way, where the polenta is really more of a vehicle for fat and other flavors. But a few years ago, I started to transition to the other school. Now I really polenta that actually tastes like polenta. It’s rich corn and slight sweet and almost nutty flavor is best unadulterated. Served plain, it’s also a great match for stews. In this recipe it’s paired with mushrooms and topped with a little bit of basil almond cream. You can use any type of mushrooms in this, but it’s best to use a mix. I use a mix of white, cremini, and shitakes in this, but you could add any wild mushrooms as well. I normally use sherry with mushrooms, but in this I use white wine because I like the brightness that it brings to the dish.

Mushrooms and polenta with basil almond cream
Serves 2 (can be doubled)

1 cup of polenta
8 oz. white mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
8 oz. cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
4 oz. shitake mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
2 teaspoons olive oil
1-2 teaspoons of kosher salt
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons of dried sage
¼ cup of white wine
¼ vegetable stock
Salt and pepper

Basil Almond Cream
½ cup of almonds
½ cup of water
2 tablespoons of finely chopped basil

1. Cook the polenta. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil and add some salt. When the water boils, pour the polenta in, while stirring with a whisk so it doesn’t lump. Turn the heat down and let it cook, stirring often, for about 20-30 minutes, until it’s smooth and creamy (not gritty). You will likely need to add water to it throughout.
2. While the polenta cooks, sauté the mushrooms. Add the oil to a skillet (I use non-stock). Add half of the mushrooms and cook on medium high heat, until they start to give up their liquid and brown slightly. Add the other half of the mushrooms and salt and cook, shaking the pan every few minutes, until they begin to brown. Add the garlic and sage and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Add the white wine and let it reduce by about half. Add the vegetable stock. You want a little bit of liquid in this, but it shouldn’t be soupy. Add salt and pepper to taste.
3. Add the basil almond cream ingredients to a blender and blend into a smooth paste. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste.
4. Spoon some polenta into the bottom of two bowls. Add half of the mushrooms to each bowl and top with a dollop of almond cream.

1 comment:

  1. I can't believe I've never had polenta! This looks and sounds amazing.