Oven Polenta with Roasted Mushrooms and Thyme

If you’re looking for a little comfort food tonight given the frigid temps we’re experiencing, this recipe is a great one. Polenta is totally under-appreciated in my opinion. Not only does it cook super fast, if seasoned correctly it’s absolutely delicious, and it’s incredibly versatile. You can serve it with stew on top, as a side dish, with eggs for breakfast, as . a replacement for mashed potatoes…so many options.

This recipe from Bon Appetit uses it as a main dish, topped with crispy, crunchy, meaty roasted mushrooms with thyme. Hard to believe, but I had never roasted mushrooms before — I usually just saute on the stovetop. This method gives them such a nice flavor and texture, it’s going to be my new go-to.

The polenta is nice and creamy and cheesy, and the mushrooms are hit with a splash of vinegar at the end for the perfect balance of acid against the umami of the mushrooms.

TW’s Tips

  • The polenta cooks through in the oven versus the stovetop, so make sure you use an oven-safe pot (i.e., no plastic handles, or cover them securely with tin foil).
  • We selected a variety of different mushroom types, including shitake, cremini and lion’s mane, which were delicious! Pick something you’ve never tried before.
  • Sea salt at the end adds a nice crunch.
  • Garnish with Parmesan and thyme.
  • As mentioned in the recipe, don’t crowd the mushrooms in the pan, or else they will steam versus roast. It will give them a totally different texture and taste.

Enjoy!

Oven Polenta with Roasted Mushrooms and Thyme

Ingredients

  • 1½ lb. mixed mushrooms (such as crimini, shiitake, oyster, and/or maitake), torn into 1″ pieces
  • 4 sprigs thyme, plus leaves for serving
  • 6 garlic cloves, smashed
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 cup polenta
  • 4 oz. Parmesan, finely grated, plus more for serving
  • 1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • Flaky sea salt

Directions

Place racks in upper and lower thirds of oven; preheat to 325°. Combine mushrooms, thyme sprigs, and garlic on a large rimmed baking sheet. Season generously with kosher salt and pepper; drizzle with oil. Toss to coat mushrooms, then spread out in an even layer. (Make sure not to crowd the mushrooms on the baking sheet; otherwise, they’ll steam instead of getting crispy.) Transfer to upper rack in oven and let mushrooms roast while you prepare polenta.

Bring 4½ cups water to a simmer in a large ovenproof saucepan over medium-high heat. Add butter and a generous pinch of kosher salt and whisk to melt butter. Gradually add polenta, whisking constantly. (Gradually incorporating the polenta into the water is key to preventing clumps.) Return mixture to a boil, immediately cover pot, and transfer to lower rack in oven. Bake polenta, shaking baking sheet with mushrooms occasionally, until polenta is tender, 25–30 minutes.

Remove polenta from oven. Crank up oven temperature as high as it will go (but don’t broil). Continue to cook mushrooms until crisp around the edges, 5–10 minutes longer.

Meanwhile, carefully uncover polenta and whisk vigorously, scraping bottom of pan, until polenta is smooth and thick. Gradually add 4 oz. Parmesan, whisking constantly until melted and incorporated; taste and season with more kosher salt and pepper. Cover and keep warm over low heat while mushrooms finish roasting.

Remove mushrooms from oven; drizzle with vinegar. Toss to coat; let cool slightly.

Divide polenta among bowls and top with mushrooms, thyme leaves, sea salt, and more Parmesan.

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Creamy Polenta with Braised Greens and Poached Eggs

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I just love, love a poached egg. I only discovered the heaven of a runny yolk as an adult — I grew up eating hard-boiled and fried eggs with the yolks broken. Wow, was I missing out. I am a big fan of eggs at lunch and dinner, not just breakfast. They are super versatile and easy — and have you tried one on a burger? Yum.

I found this recipe upon returning from a two-week trip in Europe, with the joy and guilt of frequent four-course lunches and excessive butter/cream/cheese/wine consumption hanging over my head. Which is not to say there is not cheese and whole milk in this dish, because there is. But its simplicity appealed, as did the absence of meat and the inclusion of some dark greens (vegetables!). I found it in an old Food & Wine magazine, it’s a Bobby Flay recipe.

And did I mention it’s delicious? The polenta is nice and cheesy, the greens spiked with garlic and onion and red wine vinegar, and all topped with an awesome, spicy chile oil and of course a poached egg. So many great flavors happening. Just break the yolk up and stir up all the goodness together.

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TW’s Tips

  • I’m pretty certain the polenta I had in the cupboard was instant, and this recipe calls for the regular (non-instant) type. By all means though, use instant — it’s quicker and easier. Just don’t start it until everything is nearly done as it cooks really quickly.
  • Poaching an egg is an art. I found that 3-3 1/2 minutes was more like it for the cook time, to ensure a runny yolk (but I was poaching them one by one versus four in the same pot). Play around with it.
  • Poach enough eggs for the number of servings you’re preparing, and for leftovers, reheat the polenta and greens in the micro and poach the egg so it’s fresh.
  • The polenta needed a bit more salt.

Enjoy!

Ingredients

For the chili oil:

  • 1/4 cup stemmed and finely chopped Tutto Calabria hot long red chile peppers, or hot cherry peppers
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt

For the polenta:

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup polenta or stone-ground yellow cornmeal
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

For the braised greens:

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/4 pounds mustard greens, ribs removed, leaves chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

For the egg:

  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 4 eggs
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for serving

Directions

Make the chile oil: Combine the chopped chiles, olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small saucepan over low heat and cook 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool completely. Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate up to 1 week. (You will have about 1 1/4 cups chile oil.)

Cook the polenta: Bring 3 cups cold water, the milk, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Gradually whisk in the polenta; whisk constantly until the mixture is smooth and begins to thicken, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, stirring often, until tender and thickened but still creamy, about 30 minutes. Add more hot water as needed if the mixture seems too dry. Stir in the butter and cheese.

Meanwhile, make the braised greens: Heat the olive oil in a large high-sided saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly golden brown, about 2 minutes. Add the greens, season with salt and pepper and toss. Reduce the heat to medium, stir in 1 cup water, cover and cook until wilted and soft, about 20 minutes. Remove the lid during the last 5 minutes to cook off any additional liquid. Stir in the red wine vinegar just before serving.

Poach the eggs: Heat 3 cups water with the white vinegar until simmering in a large high-sided frying pan. Break each egg into a cup, then gently add to the water. Poach until the yolks are nearly set, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the eggs from the pan with a slotted spoon to drain the liquid and place on a plate. Season with salt and pepper.

To serve, spoon some of the polenta into bowls, top with some of the greens and a poached egg per bowl. Drizzle with the chile oil and garnish with the chopped parsley.

Hungarian Style Chili with Smoked Gouda Polenta

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It’s getting a little chilly here in San Diego (well, chilly for San Diego at least), just the weather that makes me crave some warm, comforting soups and chilis. This Hungarian chili, a Rachael Ray recipe, is such a cool take on the traditional Mexican/Texan/Southwestern varieties. It uses basic chili ingredients (onion, pepper, chile, tomato) but switches up the spice with paprika and marjoram/oregano.

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But the real kicker is the smoked gouda polenta that the chili makes its home atop. That’s right, I said smoked gouda. This creamy, cheesy polenta truly makes the dish. You get some smoky flavors from the chile and the chili powder and paprika, but also from the cheese, and the bright herbs on top add just the right note of freshness. You’ll want to curl up on the couch or in front of a fireplace with this dish.

TW’s Tips

  • Using a red pepper instead of green really makes a big difference in the flavors here — don’t switch it out!
  • Find quick cooking polenta in the pasta aisle. Not the pre-made “roll” of polenta — it’s a grain-like consistency that reminds me of finer couscous. It comes in a box.
  • Dill worked really well on top.
  • This makes great leftovers — and would freeze well if you make a double batch. Just make the polenta fresh.

Hungarian Style Chili with Smoked Gouda Polenta  

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons EVOO
  • 2 pounds coarse ground sirloin
  • 1 red chili pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder, a palmful and a half
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons smoked sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram or oregano, 1/3 palmful
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 quart beef stock
  • 1 1/2 cups water or chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 cup quick cooking polenta
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup shredded Gouda or smoked Gouda
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • Finely chopped fresh dill, parsley and chives for garnish

Directions

Heat a large pot over medium-high to high heat. Add beef and brown 7-8 minutes. Add hot pepper, bell peppers, onions and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Cook to soften vegetables, 7-8 minutes more. Stir in chili powder, sweet paprika and oregano. Add tomato paste to pot and stir to combine, 1 minute. Add stock to pot and bring chili to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook 15 minutes more.
In a separate pot, bring water or chicken stock and milk to a boil, whisk in polenta and cook 2-3 minutes until thickened. Stir in butter and cheese, season with salt and pepper.

Fill shallow bowls with polenta, make a well in the center. Fill well with ladles of chili and top with sour cream and herbs.

Sausage, Mushroom & Polenta “Lasagna”

I love the challenge and adventure of trying a new recipe, so it’s not too often I come back to a recipe more than once. It’s really got to be good. Well folks — this is one of them recipes. Actually, I think I’ve made it at least six times (!).

Courtesy of Rachael Ray: Sausage, Mushroom and Polenta Lasagna. Rachael starts with a “master” recipe for this one, and then offers a few riffs on it for variety. I’ve tried all the riffs, and I’m a big fan of the olive one and the pesto one. But they’re all DELICIOUS.

If you’ve never used prepared polenta before (I hadn’t) — it’s a revelation. Super easy and tasty. This dish is hearty but not too heavy, since it uses portobello mushroom instead of lots of meat, and it has great flavors from the lemon zest in the ricotta, spice from the red pepper flake and fresh rosemary.

I made it with some roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon and lemon juice. If you think you don’t like Brussels sprouts…it’s time to get over that. Come on — there’s bacon involved. And when you roast them, they are unbelievably nutty and flavorful. I crisped up the bacon (remove it from the pan), then threw the sprouts in to brown them up, then roasted them in the same oven with the “lasagna” for 20 minutes. Squeeze some lemon juice over them, crumble in the bacon, salt and pepper. Voila.

TW’s tips:

  • I find that polenta tends to come in inconvenient 16-oz packages. I just buy two and use both.
  • Polenta can be hard to find at the grocery store. I have strode cursing through the aisles more than once. It’s usually buried on the bottom shelf in the pasta aisle or with the sundried tomatoes or other Italian “miscellaneous” items. It’s literally a tube of polenta.
  • When Rachael says “don’t make yourself crazy” spreading the cheese over the polenta — listen.
  • It takes longer than 15-18 minutes to heat this through. I like my food hot. I’d say 30 at least, but her trick for testing the knife after you stick it through the middle works well.
  • The foil over the top sticks to the mozzarella as it melts (duh). Try to leave some space in there so it’s not a mess when you take off the foil.
  • This is amazing for leftovers. I’m known for making a double batch.

You’re going to love it!

Sausage, Mushroom & Polenta “Lasagna”

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO), plus more for drizzling
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 pound bulk sweet Italian sausage
  • 1 portobello mushroom, stem removed
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves stripped and finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Salt and finely ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock or broth
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
  • 1 tube (24 ounces) prepared polenta, plain or flavored, cut into 21 disks about 1/4-inch thick
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella

Preheat the oven to 450.

Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat with the 2 tablespoons of EVOO (twice around the pan) and the butter. Once the butter is melted, add the sausage, breaking it up with the back of a wooden spoon. While the sausage is starting to brown, cut the portobello mushroom in half and then thinly slice and add to the sausage. Chop and add to the pan as you go the onions, garlic and rosemary. Season the sausage and mushrooms with the red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Once everything is in the pan, the sausage is lightly browned, and the mushrooms and onions have wilted, add the chicken stock and lemon juice. Continue to cook over high heat until the liquids have evaporated, about 2 to 3 minutes.

While the sausage and mushrooms are cooking down in the liquid, in a bowl, combine the ricotta cheese with the egg, lemon zest, Parmigiano, and the breadcrumbs.

Brush an 8-inch spring form pan or an 8″ x 8″ baking dish with a little EVOO and place 7 disks of the polenta on the bottom of the dish. If they overlap a little that’s fine; it will vary depending on what kind of dish you are using. Divide the sausage and mushroom mixture into 3 even portions. Do the same with ricotta mixture.

Using the back of a spoon, spread one third of the ricotta mixture on top of the polenta. Don’t make yourself crazy doing this — just mush it out over the polenta. Top the ricotta with a third of the sausage and mushrooms. Repeat the layers two more times, starting with the polenta and finishing with a sausage and mushroom layer. Sprinkle the top with the mozzarella. Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil, transfer to the oven, and bake for 15 to 18 minutes. To make sure it is cooked through, insert a knife into the center of the dish, wait a few seconds, and then remove it. Touch the knife with your fingertips and if it is hot, the lasagna is done. Remove from the spring form (or cut loose from the baking dish) and serve.

VARIATIONS:

Sweet and Savory Polenta “Lasagna”

Add: 1/2 cup golden raisins & 1/2 cup pine nuts

Prepare like the master recipe, adding the raisins and pine nuts when you add the chicken stock and lemon juice to the sausage and onions.

Sausage, Mushroom, Olive Polenta “Lasagna”

Add: 4 rounded tablespoons store-bought black or green olive tapenade.

Prepare like the master recipe, adding the tapenade to the ricotta.

Sausage, Mushroom, Pesto “Lasagna”

Add: 4 tablespoons store-bought good-quality pesto

Prepare like the master recipe, adding the pesto to the ricotta.