Saturday, August 3, 2013

Grilled Polenta With Mushroom Ragout

Grilled Polenta With Mushroom Ragout recipe

Until recently I had never laid a hand on polenta...although I grew up with cornmeal, which I am assuming is a cousin to polenta. Cornmeal {and a punishing but delicious quantity of cheese} is the basis of a Hungarian casserole my grandmother always prepared. It was her signature dish and I think I have talked about it before. Her sisters were unable to get the hang of it so for quite some time {until my father stepped in for lessons} she was the only family member who could successfully whip up this inimitable dish. There are loads of requirements - a special wooden spoon, a specific technique in adding the cornmeal to the water and an incredibly strong arm backed by boundless stamina - all to successfully stir out the stubborn lumps. I tried like many others to pull of this dish and let's just say it ranked as one of my great kitchen disasters...only partially saved by frantically passing a lumpy mess of cornmeal through a food processor. 

But I kept  hearing how easy polenta was to prepare and I started tagging polenta recipes to try on an occasion when a waft of bravery would overcome me. And when that moment came I made this polenta dish , happy to report, with the ease of making a cup of tea. 

Armed with a new-found confidence, I decided to take my second polenta plunge last night with this mushroom ragout recipe {and curiously, I note that the author of this recipe leads off with the words polenta is not difficult to make which made me realize I am not the only person who was unduly intimidated by polenta. 

So regarding this recipe:  it's all about mushrooms, of course. Use any combination of fresh, wild varieties you like. I used a mix of shiitake, mitake, cremini and oyster mushrooms. 

I considered taking a shortcut and buying prepared polenta {a thought not rooted in intimidation but in an effort to save a few minutes of time} but then realized the from-scratch route allowed for the addition of sun-dried tomatoes and who doesn't love sun-dried tomatoes?

And getting to what really makes this recipe so rich and's not just mushrooms but a ragout with tomatoes, broth, marjoram and parsley plus some salt and a shameless quantity of freshly ground black pepper.

And when it all comes together, the result is a perfectly satisfying summer dinner.  

Grilled Polenta With Mushroom Ragout recipe

Grilled Polenta With Mushroom Ragout

- Polenta:
5 c + 1/2 c water
1 t sea salt
1 c + 1/2 c polenta
12 sun-dried, reconstituted in hot water, drained and chopped
- Ragout {prep ingredients after polenta is prepared}:
2 T olive oil, plus more for grilling
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 lb + 1/2 lb mix of fresh, wild mushrooms {such as shiitake, cremini, portobello, mitake, oyster}
4 t freshly chopped marjoram
2 T freshly chopped Italian parsley
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c vegetable stock
1 c chopped fresh tomatoes

To prepare the polenta, heat water in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. When bubbles start forming, add salt, reduce heat to low and slowly pour in polenta, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Add sun-dried tomatoes and continue stirring constantly until the polenta is thick enough to hold an upright spoon. Pour polenta into 8" by 8" glass baking dish and place in refrigerator to cool and set. This process should be complete by the time you finish preparing the ragout.

To prepare the ragout, chop the herbs and tomatoes. Set aside. Cut the mushrooms into pieces about twice the size as bite size. Set aside. Saute olive oil and garlic in a large saute pan over medium heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add mushrooms, marjoram and parsley. Throw in a little salt and pepper and saute for 5 minutes. Add vegetable stock and tomatoes and simmer until mushrooms are soft and sauce has begun to reduce. Remove from heat, taste and adjust seasonings. Set aside, covered.

Remove the polenta from the refrigerator. It should be cooled and set. Cut into 6 squares. Heat grill pan or non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Brush with olive oil and grill each polenta square 3 to 4 minutes per side, until a golden crust forms. 

To serve, place polenta squares on individual plates and spoon ragout on top.

Serves 6.

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Source: Clean Food, Terry Walters

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