I'm so glad I got over my hatred of mushrooms. Between you and me, I don't think I really had an issue with their taste or, as I often complained, their spongy consistency. The real reason, I've come to accept, was because my sister loved them so much. Therefore, I had to hate them. Makes sense, right? The funny thing is that I ate everything as a kid. I never turned away food. Except, that is, if it contained mushrooms. I'm not sure when I decided how silly it was that I said I didn't like them. I guess I started giving them a chance as a teenager, especially when I stopped eating meat. Their texture, the umami notes... all the things I missed from eating a steak... I found I could get all of that from mushrooms.
Sometimes the best dishes come when focusing on a single ingredient. I started with an assortment of fresh mushrooms and built off that. A bit of butter and red wine helped to build a flavorful and very satisfying sauce. The creamy polenta, rich and comforting. Nothing wrong with a little fat this time of year. We'll get back to salads later. Right now, this is what we need.
Creamy Polenta with Stewed Mushrooms
Yield 4 servings
2 lbs fresh mushrooms (such as oyster, cremini, chanterelle, and shiitake), cleaned, trimmed and sliced 2 shallots, peeled and sliced thinly lengthwise 2 garlic cloves, minced 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, chopped 2 teaspoons fresh tarragon, chopped 3 tablespoons butter 1.25 cups red wine Kosher salt Black pepper
6 cups water 1.5 teaspoons salt 1.5 cups corn meal 2 oz fresh grated parmesan cheese 2 tablespoons butter (make it 3 tablespoons if not adding creme fraîche) 2 tablespoons creme fraîche (optional)
1. In a skillet, heat the butter over medium heat. Once the butter has melted and started to foam, add the shallots and garlic and cook for one minute, stirring occasionally. Add the mushrooms, rosemary and tarragon; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for a couple minutes. Add the red wine and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until the majority of the liquid has evaporated. Taste for seasoning and, if necessary, season with a little salt and pepper.
2. To prepare the polenta, bring the 6 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Once it reaches a boil, slowly whisk in the corn meal. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 12 minutes, making sure to stir frequently. Remove from heat, sprinkle parmesan and whisk in the butter and creme fraîche.
3. To serve, plate the polenta and top with mushrooms and shallots. Sprinkle some chopped tarragon on top.