Polenta with Sautéed Mushrooms

Even when you think something is either too hard, too finicky or perhaps too much of a calamity to make… I say do it anyway. For some reason, this girl who’s so infatuated with Italian food has not had the best luck with polenta making. There. I’ve said it. What’s a girl to do…? Keep on trying ’til you get it right.

When you DO get it right, the satisfaction alone is worth the time & effort. And then… there’s the good eats…

The problem was not with the initial cooking of the famed Italian preparation… but the storing and handing afterwards – to turn it into a divine something else. What was I doing wrong…? Firstly, I hadn’t found this wonderful instant polenta product – it’s pre-cooked corn meal so most of the work is already done. Also, once the polenta is cooked, you immediately pour it onto a baking sheet and smooth the top with a spatula. When cooled, the idea is to cut them into rounds (squares, fingers…) and then pan fry in olive oil. Next…? Top with sauce, cheese, mushrooms, what have you… or to turn them into the Roman version of gnocchi, gnocchi alla Romana where discs of cooked and cooled polenta are baked with butter and cheese, until crispy, bubbly, golden…. mmmm… are you with me??

So, WHAT was I doing wrong…? I was covering the polenta and storing in the fridge, when what you want to do is leave it open. The wrapping traps air making condensation… and just like what’ll happen to the top of a wrapped fruit crisp – it makes it soggy, thus ruining the texture.

It was a fantastic-o ah-ha moment!!

I’ve used both regular and instant polenta, with no apparent difference. In anything, other than the time it took to make it. Find a good instant Italian product, and you’re golden. Literally!

Now… I make it with confidence and armed with the know-how… it turns out bellissama, either way. Brava per me~


Polenta with Sautéed Mushrooms

There’s absolutely no harm or foul in using an instant product… if it works for you. If you can find the brand in the pics, get it; polenta just might become a regular at your table. If you’re going to serve the polenta soft, rather than firm it up and grill/cook it again, sauté the mushrooms first. You don’t want the polenta to sit more than a minute or so, as it will firm up – right in the pot. Serves 4~

Ingredients & Preparation for the Mushrooms:
8 oz sliced mushrooms of your choice
1 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
Thyme, 1 tsp fresh
1 TBSP butter, to swirl in at the end

Place a skillet large enough to accommodate the mushrooms over medium heat and add the olive oil.
When the oil is hot, add the mushrooms and sauté until golden, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with salt, pepper & thyme, and add the butter at the very end. Cover and keep warm while you make the polenta; heat to serve if necessary.

Ingredients & Preparation for the Polenta:
2 1/2 cups stock, preferably homemade (or other good quality)
1 cup instant polenta
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano
Salt if needed – check the seasoning on the stock first, by tasting it

Add the stock to a medium sized saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add the polenta, whisking constantly & thoroughly, to avoid clumping.

Return pan to heat and bring back to a boil – it’s then ready to serve. Dish out right away, before it starts to harden. Top with the mushrooms, give it a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle of grated Parmigiano.

Or immediately pour out onto a lightly oiled pan to firm up. Chill in the fridge, but do not cover. It can then be cut into rounds and pan fried in olive oil until crispy. Top with almost anything you’d put on pasta: mushrooms, tomato sauce, fried peppers, etc.