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SEASONAL RECIPES

Recipe: For a quick meatless meal, top bowls of satisfying, creamy polenta with mushrooms

Creamy Polenta with Mushrooms.Karoline Boehm Goodnick

Serves 4

Italian polenta is an underrated meal -- meatless, ready in minutes with very little effort, and instantly satisfying. The only thing to remember when cooking polenta, which is coarsely ground cornmeal, is to keep the heat low and stir often to avoid scorching the bottom. Later, if it thickens while sitting, simply add warm water (a little goes a long way), and stir to loosen the mixture. Any type of mushroom will work in this dish; the key is to keep the pieces on the large size. Halve or quarter cremini or large button mushrooms, thickly slice shiitakes, and stem oysters but leave them whole. Bigger pieces will retain more bite, lending a bit of texture to a meal that might otherwise be mushy (in the most comforting sense of the word). Serve the polenta and mushrooms with a large, seasonal salad.

MUSHROOMS

3tablespoons olive oil
2pounds mixed mushrooms (shiitake, oyster, cremini), coarsely chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 shallots, finely chopped
4cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
½cup vegetable broth or white wine
2teaspoons sherry vinegar or white wine vinegar
2teaspoons soy sauce
1cup heavy cream

1. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil. Add the mushrooms and sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt. Stir well, lower the heat to medium, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.

2. Remove the lid, and turn the heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring often, for 7 to 10 minutes, or until the mushrooms are tender. Add the shallots, garlic, and thyme. Cook, stirring, for 3 minutes more.

3. Add the vegetable broth or wine, vinegar, and soy sauce. Cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes, or until the liquid has mostly reduced.

4. Add the cream and bring the liquid to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer, stirring often, for 5 to 8 minutes, or until the cream thickens. Taste for seasoning and add pepper and more salt, if you like. (If the mushrooms have cooled before the polenta is done, reheat the mushrooms for 2 minutes, stirring, over medium heat.)

POLENTA

cups water
1cup polenta
Salt, to taste
3tablespoons butter
¼cup freshly grated Parmesan
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
2tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (for garnish)

1. In a heavy-based flameproof casserole, bring 3 cups of the water to a boil. When it is boiling, slowly stream in the polenta, whisking constantly. Lower the heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes.

2. Remove from the heat. Stir in the remaining 1/2 cup water, cover, and let stand for 5 minutes.

3. Stir in salt, butter, Parmesan, and nutmeg.

4. Ladle the polenta into bowls. Top each with mushrooms and garnish with parsley.

Karoline Boehm Goodnick

Serves 4

Italian polenta is an underrated meal -- meatless, ready in minutes with very little effort, and instantly satisfying. The only thing to remember when cooking polenta, which is coarsely ground cornmeal, is to keep the heat low and stir often to avoid scorching the bottom. Later, if it thickens while sitting, simply add warm water (a little goes a long way), and stir to loosen the mixture. Any type of mushroom will work in this dish; the key is to keep the pieces on the large size. Halve or quarter cremini or large button mushrooms, thickly slice shiitakes, and stem oysters but leave them whole. Bigger pieces will retain more bite, lending a bit of texture to a meal that might otherwise be mushy (in the most comforting sense of the word). Serve the polenta and mushrooms with a large, seasonal salad.

MUSHROOMS

3tablespoons olive oil
2pounds mixed mushrooms (shiitake, oyster, cremini), coarsely chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 shallots, finely chopped
4cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
½cup vegetable broth or white wine
2teaspoons sherry vinegar or white wine vinegar
2teaspoons soy sauce
1cup heavy cream

1. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil. Add the mushrooms and sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt. Stir well, lower the heat to medium, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.

2. Remove the lid, and turn the heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring often, for 7 to 10 minutes, or until the mushrooms are tender. Add the shallots, garlic, and thyme. Cook, stirring, for 3 minutes more.

3. Add the vegetable broth or wine, vinegar, and soy sauce. Cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes, or until the liquid has mostly reduced.

4. Add the cream and bring the liquid to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer, stirring often, for 5 to 8 minutes, or until the cream thickens. Taste for seasoning and add pepper and more salt, if you like. (If the mushrooms have cooled before the polenta is done, reheat the mushrooms for 2 minutes, stirring, over medium heat.)

POLENTA

cups water
1cup polenta
Salt, to taste
3tablespoons butter
¼cup freshly grated Parmesan
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
2tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (for garnish)

1. In a heavy-based flameproof casserole, bring 3 cups of the water to a boil. When it is boiling, slowly stream in the polenta, whisking constantly. Lower the heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes.

2. Remove from the heat. Stir in the remaining 1/2 cup water, cover, and let stand for 5 minutes.

3. Stir in salt, butter, Parmesan, and nutmeg.

4. Ladle the polenta into bowls. Top each with mushrooms and garnish with parsley.Karoline Boehm Goodnick