Sometimes, I can’t just sit down and write a recipe as I’m cooking. The process of writing a draft recipe, then following it and making notes and changes along the way is fine for the weekends, but when I’m hungry and dinner needs to be on the table, it’ s better to make now, write down what happened later.
And so it was with this mushroom dish. It’s mostly inspired by a wonderful meal I had at Redfish Lake Lodge near Stanley, Idaho — fresh, homemade pasta all tangled up with herbs and mushrooms and amazingness, served with a great red wine. But of course, as this is a gluten-free blog, I needed to pair those mushrooms with something a little easier on the tummy.
I’d made this creamy Italian-style polenta last week to serve under a lamb ragu, hoping it would taste like a lamb bolognese I’d had at our local sheep festival. The sauce was fine, but not a hit. The polenta, on the other hand? Killer. Smooth, rich and creamy in a way that only cooks who are not afraid of butter can accomplish.
Overall, though, this dish is not as guilt-inducing as it tastes. There’s butter and cheese, but a reasonable amount, and the difference they make to this dish is well worth it. Otherwise, the flavor comes from fresh herbs, lots of garlic, white wine and a touch of balsamic vinegar. And it only happened because I put down my pen and started adding a little of this, a little of that, until it was perfect. I encourage you to do the same.
(Note: If you desperately need this to be vegan, use olive oil instead of butter and skip the cheese. It won’t be the same, but it will be vegan.)
- I cup polenta (or medium-grind grits)
- 5 cups water
- 2 cups chicken broth, divided
- 5 cloves garlic, minced, divided
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
- 4 Tbsp butter, divided
- 2 shallots, thinly sliced
- I cup white wine
- 3/4 pound shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
- 1/4 pound cremini mushrooms (the brown kind), thinly sliced
- 1 1/2 Tbsp minced fresh rosemary
- 1 1/2 Tbsp minced fresh thyme
- 1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
- 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
- Bring water to a simmer over medium heat. Add polenta in a steady stream and whisk. Cook, stirring, until thickened and bubbling. Lower heat to low. Add broth, 2 Tbsp butter and 2 cloves of garlic. Stir, cover, and allow to simmer while the mushrooms are cooking.
- Meanwhile, melt remaining butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring, until soft — about six minutes. Add remaining garlic and stir, then add wine and allow to simmer until wine has mostly reduced.
- Add mushrooms, herbs and broth. Cook until mushrooms are soft and have given up juices, and sauce is mostly reduced. Add balsamic vinegar and stir. Cook for about 3 more minutes, or until the super-sharp vinegar bite has mellowed.
- Stir Parmesan cheese into the polenta until melted. Spoon onto plates. Ladle mushrooms over; garnish with extra thyme and Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.