Polenta is another one of those Italian comfort foods that has a wide range of possibilities. It can be served soft and creamy with a rich ragu on top, or it can be chilled, cut into squares, grilled and topped with something savoury for a great starter. It's the latter category that I'm providing a recipe for today. My favourite ingredient to marry with polenta is a collection of specialty mushrooms.
A batch of sautéed earthy mushrooms is perfect to place on top of a piece of grilled or fried polenta. This appetizer also features Fontina cheese which has a creamy consistency and a great flavour. A topping of peppery arugula and you are all set for a tasty starter.
Polenta with Mushrooms and Fontina
- 3 cups (750 ml) milk
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 3/4 tsp. (4 ml) salt
- 1/2 tsp. (2 ml) pepper
- 1 cup (250 ml) polenta
- 3 tbsp. (45 ml) olive oil
- 2 tbsp. (25 ml) butter
- 1 cup (250 ml) of shiitake mushrooms, stems removed a coarsely chopped
- 1 cup (250 ml) of oyster mushrooms, coarsely chopped
- salt and pepper
- 1/2 tsp. (2 ml) truffle oil (optional)
- 1/3 c. (75 ml) grated Fontina cheese
- arugula leaves for garnish
Bring milk, garlic, pepper and salt to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to a simmer and slowly whisk in cornmeal. Continue to cook (whisking frequently) for about 10-15 minutes. (If you are using instant polenta, this will only take about 5 minutes). Transfer to a small greased cookie sheet (aprox. 8 x 12) and smooth with a spatula. Set aside to cool. Cover with plastic wrap refrigerate until ready to use.
Cut polenta into 12 pieces (or using a round cookie cutter cut into 3-inch inch circles). To make the topping, heat half the the oil and butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cook until just tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in truffle oil if using. Set aside. Heat remaining oil and butter in a non-stick pan over medium heat. Place the polenta pieces in the pan and cook until starting to color slightly and turn crisp. Turn over and continue to cook the other side until slightly golden. Transfer to a platter. Place a spoonful of the grated Fontina on top of each warm polenta piece, followed by a spoonful of the mushrooms. Top with a few arugula leaves before serving. Makes 8 to 12.