So, after the cardoon challenge (*FAIL*), and the sunchoke challenge (*toot*), I was so relieved to open Joe’s bag to see an array of mushrooms. And not, you know, tree bark or bee larvae or clods of dirt or something. These were lovely specimens too… cremini, oyster, chanterelle, and a few others I couldn’t identify. Trusting Joe and his vendor, I proceeded to think about what to do with my little pile of treasure. Since they were so lovely, I really wanted to keep the mushrooms themselves front and center. It was also a weeknight, so I didn’t want to spend forever messing around with them either.
Rummaging through the cupboards, I came across some stone ground cornmeal that got me in the mind to do a soft, creamy polenta topped with simply sauteed mushrooms. Easy, quick, and delicious. Sold. I only added a few things to the mushrooms to keep the spotlight on them; the shallot, wine, and parsley are all very much supporting players. Technique is important here, if not at all difficult. Start with a big pan that will hold your shrooms with plenty of breathing room so they actually saute and don’t steam defeatedly in their own juices. Preheat the pan and use high heat; the mushrooms can take it. They should squeak when you toss them, and pick up some good golden brown color. Then, drop the heat and carry on with the shallot and everything else at a more relaxed temperature. And, because, I’ve never met a lily that couldn’t be gilded just a little, hit ’em at the end with a drizzle of truffle oil to tie everything together. A restrained dusting of parmesan could also be a nice finish. Mr. T gave this little supper an enthusiastic thumbs up.
Sauteed Mushrooms with Polenta
Yield: 2 servings
1/2 c stone-ground corn meal
1 c water
2-3 c whole milk
~3 oz assorted mushrooms
1 tbs vegetable oil
2 tbs unsalted butter, divided
1 shallot, minced
2 tbs white wine or vermouth
fresh ground black pepper
1 tbs minced fresh parsley
Make the polenta: In a medium sauce pan, bring the water and 2 c of the milk to a boil. Whisking vigorously, slowly stream in the cornmeal. Reduce heat to low, and continue to whisk till evenly combined. Cook, covered, for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and salt to taste.
Prepare the mushrooms. Pick over the mushrooms, cleaning and cutting only as necessary. Cut dense round ones like creminis into bite-size pieces, and separate little ones like enokis. Only cut the very largest of the flat ones like oysters. In a nice, large saute pan–bigger than you think you need–add the oil and half the butter and turn the heat to high. Once the butter is sizzling voiciferously, add the mushrooms. Saute over high heat, tossing gently with a silicone spatula, till nicely browned, about 5 min. Reduce the heat to medium, push the mushrooms to the side, and add the remaining butter. When melted, add the shallot and saute till translucent, about 2 minutes. Mix the shallot and mushrooms together and deglaze the pan with the white wine. Mix in the parsley, and season to taste with the salt and pepper.
Just prior to serving, gently reheat the polenta, using the reserved 1 c milk to loosen to the desired consistency–I like the polenta not too bouncy, so I used most of the reserved milk.
Portion half of the polenta into a bowl, and top with half the mushrooms. Drizzle with truffle oil and serve.