Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Grilled Polenta with Wild Mushroom Ragu & Chèvre

Polenta and cheese are a wonderful combination, and the addition of grilled wild mushrooms such as chanterelles, crimini, oyster, shiitake or portobello, makes this dish downright heavenly. Plain white button mushrooms just don't do the trick — they're not flavourful enough. The cooked and cooled polenta can be cut into all kinds of shapes and simply grilled or baked to make an excellent base for lots of tempting toppings. Here the polenta is flavoured with Taleggio cheese and finished in the oven with a little fresh grated parmesan. 

Fluffy and creamy on the inside and lovely and crispy on the outside, the polenta pairs beautifully with the rich and hearty mushroom ragu, which is made with minced shallots, garlic and wild mushrooms cooked together then deglazed with Marsala wine. Heavy cream, beef broth and a tablespoon of butter towards the end, for a luscious and velvety texture. Finished with some crumbled goat cheese and a flurry of fresh thyme, this recipe for Grilled Polenta with Wild Mushrooms & Chèvre makes a delicious rich starter or light main course with a small green salad and simple vinaigrette.

Grilled Polenta with Wild Mushroom Ragu & Chèvre
Serves 4
photo courtesy of Renée of 'sweet sugar bean'

Taleggio Polenta:
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 cup ground cornmeal
3 oz Taleggio or Gruyère cheese, grated
1 oz Parmesan, grated
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp butter

Wild Mushroom Ragu:
3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 lb assorted wild mushrooms: crimini, oyster, shiitake or portobello
2 cloves garlic, mined
1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
3 tbsp Marsala wine
1/4 cup beef broth
2 tsp fresh thyme
1/3 cup whipping cream
small handful fresh parsley, chopped
salt, pepper to taste
8 oz goat cheese, crumbled for garnish

Bring the stock to the boil in a large saucepan. Pour in the cornmeal in a steady stream, stirring with a wooden spoon to prevent lumps from forming. Cook over a low heat, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes or until the mixture thickens and pulls away from the sides of the pan. Remove from the heat, add the salt and stir in the Taleggio or Gruyère cheese, until the mixture becomes lovely and creamy. Pour the polenta onto a baking tray and spread it out into an 8"x10" rectangle about 1/8-inch thick. Leave to cool for about 30 minutes or until set.

For the mushroom ragu: Using a mushroom brush or a paper towel, gently clean the mushrooms. Cut the end of the stem off, and then slice into medium sized slices. Heat 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of oil in a frying pan, and over medium heat sauté the mushrooms until tender and browned, stirring often. Add the shallots, garlic and Marsala wine, and cook another 3 minutes or so. Stir in the beef broth, thyme, whipping cream and season with salt and pepper. Let it reduce down a little and thicken, about 2-3 minutes.

To make the polenta rounds, use a 3-inch round cookie cutter or upturned glass to stamp out 8 cakes. Place the slices on a parchment lined baking sheet and broil until golden brown, about 7 minutes. Flip over, sprinkle each slice with parmesan cheese and broil again, until cheese is melted and brown. Remove from broiler and set aside.

To serve, arrange one polenta slice per plate, top with some mushrooms, then another polenta slice, then more mushrooms. Garnish with crumbled goat cheese and garnish with fresh thyme.