Sunday, May 9, 2010

Cheesy Polenta with Skillet Roasted Mushrooms

Cheesy Polenta with Skillet Roasted Mushrooms

We've been eating a lot of pasta lately. I think it's because we're starting to get tasty produce again, and I'm not quite warmed up for vegetable season yet; I haven't gotten into the swing of meals on the fly based on what looks good that week. My default has been yay, asparagus! I don't know what to do with it, but I guess we can just toss it with some pasta. And you know what? That was a wonderful meal.

Mushroom Meez

But sometimes I remember that there are other starches out there in the world. Wonderful things like rice! and quinoa! and polenta! And that those, too, can be the base of an improvised dinner. We had a cup of instant polenta in the cupboard, and some Monterey Jack in the fridge, Adam stopped on the way home to pick up some portabello mushroom caps.

Thick Slices

It was also very exciting to be able to walk outside and snip some fresh thyme and chives from our container garden, it makes remembering how to use vegetables that much more fun. Do you grow herbs or vegetables? Which are you most excited about for the spring?

Cheesy Polenta with Skillet Roasted Mushrooms

Cheesy Polenta with Skillet Roasted Mushrooms
Serves 2 with leftover polenta*, to serve four, double the mushrooms.

I happened to have some homemade vegetable stock in my fridge - we make it in big batches and freeze it, and I had recently defrosted some. I don't know if I'll ever go back to making polenta with water ever again. If you've got broth or stock on hand, please try it! It is so flavorful. I wanted this polenta to be pourable, so I used a lot of liquid, but you could cut it down if you like it firmer. Oh, you could also do this with regular non-instant polenta, it would just take longer. It's entirely between you and the contents of your pantry.

For the polenta:
1 cup instant polenta
4 cups vegetable stock (or chicken broth or water)
4 ounces monterey jack cheese, shredded

For the mushrooms:
3-4 portabello mushroom caps, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
salt and pepper
chopped fresh chives for garnish.

Heat the olive oil and butter over medium high heat in your largest skillet (12 inches is good). Once they are hot, add the mushroom pieces and toss to coat with the fat. If the mushrooms don't fit in one layer, do them in batches. If you crown the pan, they'll steam instead of browning. Add the thyme and salt and pepper to taste, and cook the mushrooms, stirring occasionally, for three minutes. Then add the shallot and a touch more oil if necessary, and continue cooking until the mushrooms are tender and browned and the shallot is softened. If you haven't cooked the polenta yet, turn the heat way down and keep the mushrooms warm over a low flame.

Meanwhile, bring the stock or water to a boil in a medium sauce pan. Pour the polenta in a slow stream while whisking to combine it with the broth. Whisk constantly for about 5 minutes over medium heat, then add the cheese in three handfuls so it melts and doesn't clump. If the polenta is too thick, thin it with a little hot water or stock.

Pour the polenta onto two plates, then top each with half the mushrooms. Garnish with chopped fresh chives.

*Leftover polenta should be spread in a plastic-wrap-lined square baking pan and allowed to cool then refrigerated for up to three days. You can slice it into squares, toss it with some tomato sauce, and grate a little Parmesan over the top. Bake it in a 350 degree oven for 20-30 minutes until heated through and the top is starting to brown.


  1. I am SO making this! It looks wonderful.

  2. We made a dish very similar to this recently but topped our grits (they were real southern grits, after all) with some steamed spinach. This looks like it would be a much better combo...mmmm, buttery mushrooms!

  3. Yum! So excited to make polenta again... heard this piece on NPR over the weekend on this course ground polenta from a farm in NY that's supposed to be fantastic:

  4. Sounds delicious! I'm going grocery shopping this evening and will now need to pickup some polenta.

  5. Polenta is one of those things I've never made that I need to finally buck up and do. Those mushrooms look divoon.

  6. I will have to try this- looks wonderful! What a great way to use mushrooms. YUM!

  7. I had a similar dish a few months ago and it was wonderful. It had a runny egg on top, which really brought the flavors together.
    I'd never think of using polenta as a base for a random dish. Good tip, Adrienne! :)

  8. i tried making a small batch of polenta once, but it really didn't turn out. Need to try it again, b/c this sounds absolutely amazing!!