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Polenta in crunchtime might seem implausible. Crispy polenta requires stirring and tending, and is a carbo-naughty starch that means “corn meal mush.” Here’s the deal. I made it earlier in the day, then fried it (light olive oil) at dinnertime and froze the rest (we’ll see about that success at a later date). Nutritionally, polenta is an unprocessed food, yes from corn, but not the Monsanto bad corn – just real corn. Polenta is gluten-free for those in need, and you know who you are, and polenta provides good amounts of iron, thiamin, zinc, phosphorus and magnesium (stuff we need). It’s also a good source of fiber, which makes us feel full.

To top it off, mushrooms. Mushrooms also satiate our appetite because they are hearty and filling. All mushrooms are a rich source of umami, a Japanese term for the fifth basic taste after sweet, salty, bitter and sour.Umami counterbalances saltiness and allows up to a fifty percent salt reduction without compromising flavor. That might explain why I thought mushrooms were a meat when I was a kid, or maybe that’s what the parents told me during the recession (I’ve been through two).

Something else here in our little dish. No, not the cream – we’ll get to that later. It’s the ‘evergreen’ seasoning – from my Christmas tree, which was more than another recession necessity.

Inspired by an NYT editorial that was written by noma author and chef of Best Restaurant in the World , René Redzepi, I saved part of the Xmas tree for seasoning. Think rosemary.

The mushrooms, pull together quite nicely. Starting with an easy saute of pre-sliced bellas and buttons, in a swath of olive oil, I then added the seasonings until it softened and finally some, alas, cream. So sue me! It was about 1/4 c that finished off a carton from whipping cream – another Christmas remnant. In leaner times, I would have used chicken stock and felt much better about myself.

The kids were a little so-so because they still don’t have a loving relationship with mushrooms yet, but the husband and I ate it up, and the reheat for another meal was even better. Joy to the World!

Freeze polenta on cookie sheet flat. Then store in vacuum sealed bags. To be opened and judged at a later date.

Not sure how the frozen polenta will turn out, but I’m guessing I can disguise any breakdown with another topping. Any ideas?


crispy polenta & ever creamy evergreen mushrooms

Cooktime: 30 minutes (you will need to let the polenta refrigerate for one hour)

Servings 4-6

Crispy Polenta

1 c coarse polenta cornmeal

1/2 c grated parmesan reggiano

2 T unsalted butter

salt and freshly ground pepper

3 T Italian, flat-leaf parsley, chopped

1 T rosemary or evergreen needles, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

2 t olive oil

1 lb sliced mushrooms (your preferred variety)

2 1/2 c chicken stock

1/4 c heavy cream

1/2 c flour

1/4 c olive oil

Bring six cups water plus one tablespoon salt to boil (chicken stock may be used here, but then don’t add the salt). Lower the temperature and slowly add in the cornmeal, whisking all the while until it thickens (3-5 minutes). Continue to simmer for 20-25 minutes. Add cheese and 1 tablespoon of butter and mix well. Season with salt and pepper. Spread the polenta into a buttered 9 x 9 inch pan. Smooth the top with a spatula and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Creamy Mushrooms

In a large skillet, melt the remaining tablespoon of butter with the 2 teaspoons of olive oil on medium heat. When the oil/butter is hot, add the mushrooms, stirring occasionally until the mushrooms are cooked, but still somewhat firm (nothing wilted) 5-7 minutes. Remove the mushrooms from the pan and set aside.

In the pan, add the chicken stock, cream garlic, parsley, and rosemary/evergreen. Simmer and reduce by half 6-8 minutes. Add the mushrooms back in. Season with salt and pepper.

NOTE: The entire recipe up until this point, can be made a day or two ahead and save the following quick preparation for crunchtime:

Serving the dish:

Slice the polenta into triangles (nine squares into 18 triangles). Heat 1/24c of olive oil in a large skillet. Pour flour onto a plate and lightly coat the polenta triangles. Fry the triangles in the oil on both sides. Drain on paper towel and serve warm with creamy mushrooms spooned over top.

We served the dish with a light caesar salad.

Cook’s Options: We used very little oil for frying polenta, but we’ve seen recipes call for much more oil which will make it even crispier. You can omit the cream entirely, but might want to add a little cornstarch to thicken the mushrooms – or you can toss the mushrooms in a light amount of flour before sauteing them and then the flour with thicken the chicken stock.

recipe adapted from big oven and provided by your friends at crunchtimefood.com


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