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This is very easy to put together, and pretty quick too. Use a mix of well-flavoured mushrooms, such as chestnut, portabellini and big, flat, dark-gilled varieties, adding wild or exotic mushrooms if you have some to hand. If you have any polenta left over, let it go cold, then cut into chunks or cubes and fry it to make polenta ‘chips’. In fact, it’s worth making more than you need, just so you can do this…
For the polenta, put the milk and 400ml water into a saucepan. Add the bay leaf, thyme, peppercorns and onion/garlic. Bring to just below the boil, then set aside to infuse for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the ragout. Heat 1 tablespoon oil and half the butter in a large, wide frying pan over a medium heat. Add half the mushrooms and some salt and pepper and turn the heat up high. Cook, stirring often, to encourage the mushrooms to release their juices. Continue to cook until most of the juices have evaporated and the mushrooms are starting to concentrate and caramelise. Add half the garlic and thyme and cook for a minute more, then tip the contents of the pan out on to a plate and set aside.
Repeat with the remaining mushrooms, using the rest of the garlic and thyme. Return the first batch of mushrooms to the pan. Add the wine and stock, reduce the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes until the liquid has reduced by about half. Check the seasoning.
To cook the polenta, strain the infused milk and water into a clean pan (or just scoop out the flavourings with a slotted spoon, as I do). Bring to a simmer, then pour in the polenta in a thin stream, stirring as you do so. Stir until the mix is smooth and then it let it return to a simmer. Cook for just 1 minute, then remove from the heat. Stir in the butter, rosemary and cheese, then season generously with salt and pepper (adding at least ¼ teaspoon salt).
Immediately scoop the polenta into warmed dishes, top with the juicy mushroom ragout and serve, with an extra trickle of best olive oil and a few slivers of shaved cheese, if you like.
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