It’s odd how certain foods can elude me for years. Not that I’d been avoiding them, simply that they just didn’t come up. Like old colleagues you always meant to keep in touch with but sort of forgot about as you got on with your life. (If any of those colleagues are reading this, know that I don’t mean you!)
I’ve always enjoyed polenta but have never gotten to know it all that well. I rarely order it in restaurants – it’s not often on the menu in these parts – and don’t often prepare it for myself. But suddenly this week I found myself craving polenta, and not the kind that has been fried, although that’s good, too, but the rich and creamy version.
And I wanted it with mushrooms! And bacon! And parsley and wine! Oh, was it good. Polenta, my friend, welcome back!
Here’s the recipe:
Creamy Mushroom Polenta, adapted from Gourmet, January 2007 – serves 4
4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 piece bacon, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/4 cups thinly sliced mushrooms (i.e. oyster, shitake, baby portobellas)
1/4 cup dry vermouth
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
To make the polenta, begin by bringing the water and salt to a boil in a 3 quart saucepan. Slowly pour in the polenta and cook over medium-high heat for 2 minutes while whisking. Decrease the heat to low and cook for 45 minutes, stirring ever couple of minutes with a wooden spoon. Cover the pan with the lid propped up on the spoon while not stirring.
Cook the mushrooms while the polenta is cooking: Set a large saute over medium heat. Once hot, add the diced bacon and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes or until the bacon becomes crisp. Remove the bacon from the pan and set on a paper towel to drain; leave rendered bacon fat in the pan.
Decrease the heat to medium-low and stir in the minced garlic. Cook for 30 seconds then stir in the mushrooms. Cook until soft, about 5 minutes, then stir in the vermouth. Simmer for 1 minute and season to taste with salt and pepper.
To finish the polenta, remove the pan from the heat and season with pepper. Stir in butter and top with sauteed mushroom and minced parsley.