Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Polenta Triangles with Brown Butter Mushrooms, Sage & Goat Cheese


I love polenta. It’s simple peasant food and it’s very versatile. It can be dressed up or dressed down, slopped onto a plate, or chilled and cut into various shapes for a pretty presentation. One of my favorite ways to enjoy polenta is grilled. It’s an easy way to incorporate flavor as the char and smokiness pair naturally well with cornmeal. I planned on grilling these but ended up sprinkling the tops with grated parmigiano reggiano and hitting them with a flame from above, broiling them instead. Which, BTW, loosely translates to, “It was too cold outside to grill.” Grill them if you please, but the golden, crispy, cheese crust that results from broiling is a pretty delicious alternative.

The combination of brown butter, mushrooms, sage, caramelized onions and goat cheese really is one of the more perfect things in life. It’s a very warming, comforting blend that’s sweet, salty, savory and umami in all the right ways. It’s a lovely crown for a royal comfort food like polenta. And while eating with a fork is all proper, well and good, I think that these little snacks are best eaten out of hand like bruschetta. It’s the only way to get a really good, all-encompassing bite.

If you try this recipe you will most likely have extra polenta triangles. Save them to have on the side with dinner another night. You can serve them grilled, simply broiled with the grated cheese, or garnished with any creative topping of your choice.

Yield: about 20 triangles
-  4 ½ cups water
-  1 ½ cups instant polenta
-  1 ½ cup grated parmigiano reggiano, divided
-  2 tablespoons, plus  1 stick unsalted butter, divided
-  4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
-  1 onion, sliced thin
-  1 pound button mushrooms, quartered
-  2 tablespoons coarsely chopped sage
- Salt and pepper to taste
-  4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
1) In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil and season with salt. Gradually add the polenta, stirring continually with a whisk. Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 3 minutes, continuing to stir, until the polenta thickens. Add ½ cup of the grated parmigiano reggiano and the 2 tablespoons of butter, stirring until the butter is melted and fully incorporated.
2) Spray a half sheet pan with non-stick cooking spray. Spread the polenta out evenly in the pan. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. When fully set, cut the polenta into even squares, then cut the squares in half diagonally to make triangles.
3) To caramelize the onion, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a small saucepan or nonstick pan over very low heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and evenly browned, 40 minutes-1 hour.
4) In a large deep skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook until softened and lightly browned. Push the mushrooms aside and add the stick of butter to the pan. Cook the butter until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Lower the heat, add the sage to the butter and cook about 1 minute more. Add the caramelized onions to the pan and mix all the ingredients together well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
5) Preheat the broiler to high. Lay the polenta triangles out on a clean sheet pan and sprinkle the top of each with the remaining parmigiano reggiano. Keeping a watchful eye and turning the pan as needed, broil the polenta triangles until evenly browned, about 10-15 minutes. Top each triangle with the mushroom mixture and the crumbled goat cheese. Serve warm.

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