Grilled Polenta with Mushrooms


One of my earliest memories is eating raw mushrooms. Like so many of my really early memories, this one is fuzzy. What I clearly remember is that I was in the kitchen in my family’s house in Baltimore, MD. My mom was cooking, and I was pulling at her apron strings, probably bored and trying to get her attention in the same unrelenting way that Little Guy does now to me when I’m trying to cook. To shut me up, my mom gave me a raw mushroom to munch on. I loved it and ate several more. But what I find so strange about this memory is that other than that one memory, I grew up hating mushrooms: raw or cooked.

Well, my grandmother had a saying that your taste buds change every seven years. Mine did change, and now mushrooms are one of my favorite foods; my husband’s too. We eat a lot of them. Expensive cosmetic companies tout that mushrooms will keep you young forever; if that’s the case then Hubby and I are here to stay! I add them to pasta and soup, saute them to top off steaks, stuff them, puree them, and put them in and on almost anything.

This recipe is one of my all-time favorite ways to eat them. I love how the mushroom texture feels in my mouth combined with the creamy center and crispy edges of the grilled polenta, and I love the umami taste of the mushrooms. Sometimes I’ll drizzle a little truffle oil over this, but it doesn’t really need it. You can use any combination of mushrooms you like, or keep it simple and just use crimini mushrooms.

When I first started making this recipe I used premade, tubed polenta. However, polenta is just so easy to make; you can add so much flavor to it; and your finished product is greatly improved over the store-bought product. It is just fantastic that you can make almost all of it ahead of time – even a few days ahead, including the sauteed mushrooms. Then the night you are going to eat it, all you have to do is slice and grill the polenta and heat up the mushrooms in the microwave. I know you are going to like this; it’s one of those meals that guarantees even the toughest meat eater will not miss his moo. Enjoy!

Grilled Polenta with MushroomsClick here for a printer-friendly version of this recipe
serves 4
I use a combination of crimini, also known as baby bella, and shitaki, but any mushroom combination would work. For a real treat, replace all or some of the vegetable stock with cream.

For Polenta:
1 cup polenta (yellow corn grits)
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
1 ounce grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano
1 ½ tablespoons olive oil

For Mushrooms:
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 shallots, thinly sliced (about ½ cup)
1 pound sliced mushrooms (crimini (baby bella), or any combination of mushrooms)
½ teaspoon salt
2 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
¼ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
1 ½ teaspoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
1 ½ teaspoon fresh sage, finely chopped
½ cup dry vermouth, or dry white wine
1 cup vegetable stock

Chopped parsley and additional grated cheese for serving

Cut a piece of parchment or waxed paper to fit in a loaf pan coming up the sides to create a sling.  Spray the inside lightly with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside. In a large heavy-bottomed pot, heat 3 ½ cups of water and 1 teaspoon of salt over high heat until boiling. Using a wire whisk, slowly whisk in polenta and reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring frequently to prevent the bottom from sticking for about 20 minutes.

The polenta is done when it is very thick, soft and creamy. Remove from heat and stir in butter and cheese. Pour polenta into pregreased loaf pan. Smooth the top so that it is even. Cover tightly and refrigerate for at least three hours or up to two days.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When it starts to shimmer add the shallots, mushrooms and ½ teaspoon salt.

Saute until all liquid is gone and mushrooms are starting to brown, stirring frequently so the bottom does not burn. Add the garlic, herbs and black pepper. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add vermouth and cook until liquid has almost evaporated. Add vegetable stock and cook until liquid has reduced by half, about fifteen minutes. Remove from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Mushrooms can be used right away or covered and refrigerated for up to two days.

Heat grill to medium high heat (about 400 degrees).

While grill is heating, remove polenta from loaf pan and slice into ½ inch slices, laying the slices out on a pan. Brush both sides with olive oil.

When the grill is hot place the polenta slices on the grill at a slight angle (this just makes the grill marks look nicer). Cook until the bottom side has dark golden-brown grill marks, about 5 minutes. Carefully slide a spatula under the polenta slices and turn them over. Cook for an additional 5 minutes on the second side and then remove to the serving platter or plates. Top each serving with about a half cup of mushrooms, grated cheese and freshly chopped parsley.

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