For the past few weeks we have been dealing with a case of the flu (yes, we did get the flu shot) and pink eye (yes, pink eye) between the two kids. I’m convinced that sending our children to school is a recipe for 40 viral illnesses by 8 years of age. Really?… 40?… Friends tell us that that’s the magic dose; the magic number of colds, flus, other viral and bacterial contaminations, infections, epidemics… whatever we want to call it, to get our immune system revved up to deal with the next 8 decades.
Well…whatever it is, it’s left mommy with a mild headache and moderate exhaustion… So, today V is in charge of dinner….
Putting V in charge of the kitchen is like dropping Rick Bayless into the middle of an understated, mom n’ pop, Mexican cantina… And like Rick on Top Chef Masters, V brings the same charm, grace and uncompromising love of rustic cuisine to the kitchen. V’s passion just happens to lie across the pond, rather than south of the border…
With some basic ingredients and what was left in the fridge, V pulled together this rather simple, yet hearty, flavorful and immensely satisfying Northern Italian dish.
Polenta is coarsely or finely ground cornmeal boiled with water or stock into a porridge and eaten directly or baked, fried or grilled before serving. The source of polenta’s popularity lies in its sheer versatility. It can be served or paired with nearly anything, making it an easy match with what ever may be locally grown and in seasons. Soft polenta is often a replacement for bread during a meal, or served instead of a pasta course. It is typically prepared with butter and cheese. In this version, a topping of sautéed wild mushrooms and a generous garnishing of fresh herbs complements the texture and sweetness of the polenta. The addition of truffle oil and Taleggio cheese truly elevates the flavor profile of the dish (so don’t skimp on them!). The result is a seemingly complex, but in actuality, a very easy to prepare, rustic and rich tasting dish. V served it with a fresh salad to complete the meal.
Yield: 2 servings
3 tbsp olive oil
4 cups cremini or mixed wild mushrooms, large ones halved
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon chopped tarragon
1 tablespoon chopped thyme
1 tablespoon truffle oil
salt and black pepper
4 1/2 cups water
1 cup polenta (instant or traditional)
5 oz Parmesan, grated
4 tbsp butter
1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped chives
6 oz Taleggio (rind removed), cut into 3/8-inch slices
Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the garlic and mushrooms and pan fry for a few minutes, or until just cooked; try not to move them too much so you get golden-brown patches on the surface. Remove form heat and add the tarragon, thyme, truffle oil and some salt and pepper. Keep warm.
Bring the water to a boil in a large saucepan. Slowly stir in the polenta, then reduce the heat to the minimum and cook, stirring constantly with a spoon. The polenta is ready when it leaves the sides of the pan but is still runny. If you are using instant polenta this shouldn’t take more then 5 minutes, with traditional polenta (as I used) it could take up to 40 minutes (if it seems to dry out, add some stock or water but just enough to keep it at a thick porridge consistency).
Preheat the broiler. When the polenta is ready, stir in the Parmesan, butter, rosemary, and half the chives. Season with salt and pepper. Spread the polenta over a heatproof dish and top with the Taleggio.
Place under the broiler until the cheese bubbles. (Watch carefully, as the broiler can burn things easily and quickly.) Remove, top with the mushrooms and their juices, and return to the broiler for a minute to warm up. Garnish with the remaining chive and serve hot.
Recipe inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi